Gilberto Rayas Paredes
Mechanical Engineering student
The trip to El Salto was an experience in which I feel I’ve gained a lot of awareness in terms of my local environment.
There were basically two sides to the story; the local people and the garbage collecting company.
The garbage collecting company gave us a tour of their facilities and processes. They showed us their projects and processes in a way that left me with a good first impression of a company that was relatively young. If it had been the only thing I saw, I would have said it was a pretty decent, somewhat humble company, which was making an effort to do a good job. The place looked a little messy, but it was a dump after all, and I was expecting a much more chaotic place.
However, after thinking it over, I came to the conclusion that, for being such a large and important company for the city, it was making the least possible effort and the incomes are probably going somewhere else. I recently went to an Urrea manufacturing and distributing plant and the comparison made me realize a lot of things.
If you compare it to other companies, you get the impression they were just playing us when they showed us their processes; the only one fully operating was the collecting and disposal, the other ones were just ideas.
And even this was done using the very least possible resources; the geomembrane disposal process was mentioned in a class I had recently, and it’s supposed to be done using much more layers and materials, it’s much more complex than what is done at the dump.
In a competent company, every detail is closely observed and taken care of by many people: another thing that caught my attention was the fact that they had only one chemical engineer for the whole dumping ground. Other companies have engineers and specialists for each process, and are constantly trying to optimize them. It’s a very complex problem in terms of engineering, it’s unbelievable a company expects to improve their product, in this case a service, with the type of management it has.
I have no reason to believe it’s an issue to do with money and resources; it’s the only company doing this, it has no competition and a lot of work. For these reasons -as well as others that are more of a conjecture type, like the fact that they didn’t show us some parts that were apparently worse-, I strongly believe that this company is consciously doing more harm than what it is benefitting the city.
The other side of the story was that of the local people from El Salto. I think there’s too much to say about them, you could write a tragic novel for the stories every person can tell you.
In a nutshell, they’re the people suffering the direct consequences of our garbage, but that implies very many consequences.
It’s very sad how no one seems to listen to these people because they have no economic power. The truth is that it makes me feel lethargic to just think about all the efforts they have to go through to get almost no results.
The thought that I still have most present now, is something the woman who spoke to us told us about Guadalajara; that we should take care of it before it comes to what the people in El Salto are living. It sounds dramatic, but the fact is that people are literally dying from the pollution there.
Before the trip, I was somewhat skeptical of the impact contamination, climate change, and Guadalajara could have. I thought it was all probably exaggerated; people get excited with these types of ideas. I think that the most important lesson I got from all this is how subtle the changes in the environment are, and how strong the consequences are.
Not everything was subtle about El Salto, like the falls which were very impressive with their yellowish bubbles, but other things like that faint peculiar stink in the air were. I think it’s those little things, like the smell that was probably highly toxic, are the ones that have a larger impact on the long run; no one drinks that water anymore, they do however keep breathing that air.
This is how I’ve come to realize why (I think) these people continue to make an effort to live there and improve it. It’s the small changes that come with a lot of effort, that make a difference on the long run.
In conclusion, I think progress in sustainable living -and progress in general- is not as simple as a lot of people make it seem; as what you hear a lot of people say, like small changes in your lifestyle that don’t cost a lot of effort are enough to make a big difference. The changes in our lifestyle are going to have to cost us if we want to change the way we are impacting the environment, and the effects of those efforts will probably be very subtle but important in the end.