Over the past year or so, particularly over the last few months, and super-particularly over the past few days, as I walk around whatever city I happen to be in, I am constantly, continually, and continuously confronted with environmental quandaries maximal and minute.
Have a cola? If it's local, it's almost certainly made with dirty water; if it's Coke, the company probably outbid some Indian villagers on their water source, combined it with top-secret carcinogens/ingredients, put it in aluminum/plastic, shipped it a few thousand kilometers, is selling it for 10 times what it costs to make, and will send the profits back to some billionaire, or at least relatively wealthy WASP stockholder, in the USA.
Have a snack? I've had one thousand too many samosas since I arrived here, and the sweet-salsa-and-potato-on-a-thin-fried-dough-bubble (sev puri) snacks always come with a plastic spoon, so I'd rather opt for one of these regional treats, the names of which I'm clueless about. They look so fluffy and crusty and pastrylike. But wait - that means they probably have eggs in them, and if I knew the number of liters of water it took to get that one chicken to lay that one egg, I bet I'd find it an unconscionable act. Doublunconsionable if I knew the full extent of the Mumbai water crisis.
Hop in a cab? It'd be nice, considering that things look so far apart on the map and are all in their separate little boxes, making them seem like disparate and discrete walled-off units rather than interconnected streets and zones that flow into and out of one another. But then again, we all know how bad cars are. Especially Indian cars. Especially cars from the 1960s. Oh, did I mention that almost all cabs in Mumbai are Indian cars from the 1960s? Thank God India's not half as scary or exciting as it's reputed to be - Mumbai's actually not a terrible place to spend the entire day walking around.
Buy a stupid T-shirt that shows what kind of quips Indians find funny? Maybe that's not right - a T-shirt that shows what kind of quips Indians think other Indians will find funny? Maybe not - a T-shirt that shows what kind of quips Indian clothing manufacturers think Indians think other Indians will find funny? Yeah, I thought about that a lot today when I saw a guy wearing one that said "Why do all the children keep looking at me? I'm not their DAD!!!" To be fair, there were some that were more sensible and even chuckle-inducing. But were they made with organic cotton? Stitched by people not in a sweatshop? Methinks not!
(This one isn't so environmental, but I'll throw it in anyway. Or maybe I can find a way to make it environmental.) Be a sissy and let the driver/vendor/whoever charge me too much? On the one hand, I'm not so stingy* (truly!) as to care about the extra dollar I'm spending. On the other hand, the more I spend, the more I'll encourage a general increase in price level (which hurts the locals, who earn less than 3 dollars a day), and a tendency in thiss driver/vendor/whoever to prefer free-spending whitey tourists over their own compatriots. Not cool.
Take the elevator? I'm stuffed from a high-class Thali (maybe I already explained this - it's a kind of buffet-comes-to-you meal where you get a load of rice and roti/chapathi/appalam/bready stuff, along with 3 or 4 veg dishes [eggplant, potato, spinach, cabbage, beans, etc, all spiced and with sauces and stuff], and some chutnies and maybe other whatnot) that cost 235* rupees rather than the standard 35, and I've already taken a taxi home because I couldn't handle an hour of walking, and now I've just got 3 flights of stairs to go, and all I want to do is take of these damn semi-elastic waistband pants and punt on my super-elasticky waistband swimsuit. Alas, when I was managing the Sadhana kitchen I learned first-hand that running a blender for 30 seconds takes up as much power as charging 10 computers for two hours. Elevators must use so much energy then! Dirty Indian coal, the already filthy holy Ganges, I sneeze all the time here because there air is so bad, but I really just can't use my legs any more tonight...
(While in the 'vator) GENIUS IDEA STRIKES! Hats off to trendsetter David C Pekema, who has, as of now, true to form, started a trend of starting trends**. Here's a trend I'd now officially like to initiate:
ELEVATOR CARBON OFFSETS. Yup, you know you're a good environmentalist and responsible, forward-looking earthling when you spend hours on the web finding a company who will massage your conscience into oblivio by offsetting each and every one of your environmental transgressions, down to that couple of kilometers you travel by elevator each year. Bonus: the total amount is so small that you can probably even offset your entire life up to this point and still have money to wish you could spend, if only you could find a sufficiently enviro-friendly product.
Back in 4th grade when I used to like the Orlando Magic because my cool neighbor two doors down was infatuated with Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, I often professed my hatred for bandwagoners. I'm hereby making an exception: if you jump on my E.C.O. (totally not premeditated! I swear!) bandwagon, and provide me with some proof, then I will love you forever and will maybe post your picture or name next to the phrase "this benevolent soul helped me become a trendsetter."
*Yes, two asterisksskesis are pointing to the same footnote, which is the following. Tonight I gave the biggest tip of my life. 65 rupees. A dollar and forty-some cents. Relative to the price of the meal, that's nearly 30ish percent! In a country where you're not even supposed to give tips! The service and food werethat good. Thank you, old man in a dress-shirt and overly tight vest, for the extra mini-samosas and weird green lentil bread that you, you adorable bumbler you, dropped a little too forcefully onto my plate, in such a manner that a few coconut shavings drizzled onto my lap!
** On the one hand, I guess someone actually has to follow my lead for this to become a trend, though maybe that someone could be me. On the other hand, it's fair to assume that my urinating out of bus windows will become a mega-trend, so DCP's trend of starting trends*** will have started a few days ago.
*** Also, if footnoting blog posts becomes a trend, he can take credit for that too. I didn't have the courage to do it until I saw him wield the AXterisks so effectively.