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Posted by Javier on 22 October 2009

Before leaving Venezuela we decided to film 2 “projects”. We actually call them like that due to our very limited English. They could be considered realities we film, where we interview some people, just because the place impacts us. Obviously the goal is not to film in a professional way (since we are far from being professionals), and we don´t spend several days informing ourselves about the situation and planning the takes. We just enter, film as best as we can, we offer our impressions in front of the camera and we interview some local people that give light on the topic.
The first such place (project) was a rubbish dump, although during the footage we called it “rubbish place”. I know it sounds ridiculous, but we did not have our dictionary handy, and probably with the hurries we wouldn´t have bothered to check it anyway.


The place was not different than any other rubbish dump in any other big village in Venezuela, for instance in any other village of most part of South America and other large areas of this tortured World. A large area without trees in the close vicinity of the village - the rubbish dump was surely far from the village just few years ago, but the village must have grown and the dump has attracted families that have built precarious houses in it or close to it -. A large group of vultures flying in circles over the rubbish, just as the myriads of flies below. Fires here and there, - it is the easiest way of making room for more rubbish once the useful materials have been collected by an army of poor people-, entire families that get cash selling tins, paper, wood, and plastics. They even get food for their daily consumption from what others discarded.
It was very easy to film there, everyone was happy to be filmed and explain their role in the place. The place was as scenic as a mound of rubbish can be: plenty of shapes, colors and perspectives. Anyone could visit these kind of places in their holidays to Morocco, Mexico or Thailand, but I think it was interesting for us to film that rubbish dump  anyway: kids of 12 years diving in the rubbish, entire families hurrying up to be the first in reaching the last  truck filled with rubbish. Rats, vultures, flies, heat, dust. Poverty.


These obvious things (is there still anyone out there that does not know that the World is mostly like that????)  stop being obvious when you put a face to the story, this is why it was nice for us to film there. Surely another rubbish dump could be more scenic, and most part of potential people with a camera could have taken better images, but that place has become our rubbish dump: we will put those faces the next thousands of uncontrolled burning rubbish dumps that we will pass in the future.


Note: I am writing this from a boat in the Amazon, where some foreigners have complained about how uncivilized the people are in South America, throwing rubbish instead of recycling it and blabalabla. The topic started because in this boat, all the rubbish produced (basically the packages and the rests of the food of 120 persons plus uncountable tins of beer) is often thrown to the mighty Madeira river. Censurable as in principle these behaviors are, my point is double:


1-We are really cheated (because we want to) about the quality and importance of our recycling standards in the more industrialized countries. Both in Spain and Sweden I met people that were notoriously satisfied with their selves by the mere fact of separating the rubbish in different types.

I believe, but would be too long to explain, that unfortunately i) the methods for recycling are not as good as society perceives them (many plastics are not recycled, much materials are merely downgraded in the process, papers with contamination with other substances are too costly to recycle…..) ii) Recycling has become in many places a business of private firms (I have nothing against private firms, but that is another story), so companies tend to recycle what is profitable. By the way they have a huge amount of unconscious workers (us) that gladly provide them with the classified raw materials, ready to be used. Although these situations vary from country to country, and region to region, the fact is that incineration is probably being overused, sometimes with “environmentally sound” excuses, such as getting energy for the recycling plants. Probably it would be good if those recycling companies were public, or infinitely better if they would be private but Society would pay them the right amount of money so they´d recycle and reuse as much rubbish as it is technologically possible.


2- The situation right now is silly: society believes that the problem is solved in our countries, and we even have the balls to criticize people here. And that is a general problem: we never do the math, the quantitative analysis of what we are doing and what they are doing. “See dud, people in the Amazon are destroying the environment and they don´t even recycle. In my city….”.

Bullshit. Make the numbers and check how much you and me are throwing. But please include the pile of electronics that we discard somewhere for the fancy of buying the next model, our ridiculous nutrition standards, these polluting holidays of us going to the other extreme of the world…..How the hell we dare?. Maybe because it is human to be indulgent with oneself and criticize the others. Just as I have done (quite not inadvertedly) in this email :)
Note2: We heard several times of the rubbish dump of Puerto Ordaz, one of the biggest cities in Venezuela. Apparently a whole indigenous community is living there, since they came contracted to work in the rubbish dump. Today the place is a hell where these indigenous people are submitted to all kind of cultural shocks, alcoholism, violence etc…Some social workers are hoping for someone telling their story in a proper way, so if someone wants to know about that and even better film it in a professional way I can provide the contact.

3 comments. Tags: , , , , . Location: Manaus, Brazil



  • I second Anna's point - its all hidden away in North America to create an illusion of super clean and tidy - however there are $1000 fine signs for littering posted on the roads in most states in the US that we have passed through, but we did film some diapers on the road the other day - keep on pedalling!

    Posted by Fin on 28/10/2009 5:02pm (8 years ago)

  • It is hard to accept that you yourself might not be doing the right thing. Especially when you have a system to hide behind.

    The short animated movie 'the story of stuff' shows the needless, but ongoing massive creation of rubbish, and why we do this.

    You download it for free at:

    Posted by Maria Snoek on 26/10/2009 11:50am (8 years ago)

  • Good point that recycling 'technology' is not what is going to 'save' us or even make a huge difference to global warming or other major environmental problems.

    Lifestyle change in the parts of society that create huge amounts of waste would make a far bigger impact. Unfortunately, people are beguiled by novelty but resist change - particularly if it involves making any personal sacrifice.

    Traveling in North America is such a clear contrast to your journey.

    Safe travels.

    Posted by anna on 26/10/2009 4:21am (8 years ago)

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