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Something I have come to really appreciate and admire about the tribal culture is their resourceful mentality. They don’t really know what it means to throw something away.
Just think: Do you own a garbage can? How big is that garbage can? More interestingly, what is in it? And how often does it need to be dumped?
The reason I ask this is because while we were home four years ago on furlough, we owned one of those big, green, four-foot cans. And without fail, no matter how hard we tried, every week it was paramount for that sucker to be dumped. It would be overflowing by the time that super-sized truck would come along to take away all the neighborhood trash.
In the jungle, there are no garbage cans or giant vehicles that cart away your junk. Why? Because there isn’t a need. Nothing goes to waste.
I wouldn’t have ever realized our abundant waste if it weren’t for having to burn trash in the jungle. This is a weekly chore, and immensely disliked, because it means having to lug out your trash and openly set it ablaze, often in front of spectators.
“What’s that?” A friend might ask, pointing to a jar of peanut butter, curling and melting away into a thick, gluey, glob under the heat of the flames. “Uh . . . well, that was that peanut stuff, you know, that we eat . . . it used to be in that container. Now it’s empty, so we are burning it . . . .”
Sounds wasteful, right?
How many peanut butter jars have you jettisoned from your kitchen in the last year?
Our tribal friends didn’t really know trash other than natural things from the jungle, like scraps of food. There wasn’t ever the problem of littering or the need to recycle mass amounts of useless packaging, containers, and plastic. If you throw a banana peel out the door and give it time, it will eventually turn back to dirt. This unfamiliarity with packaged products most likely makes us envious. Why are we so wasteful?
Granted, it’s basically impossible to get away from trash in our North American culture; everything these days comes wrapped in cardboard and other synthetic matter, not raw jungle materials like the tribal people would be used to. But if you think through it, the reason for our waste ultimately is because it is easy and convenient.
A funny thing to realize, however, is the fact that we are all the same. Any people, given the chance, will choose the route of least resistance. This is what we have found with the tribal people. As years have gone by and more things are introduced from the “outside world,” we have had the chance to encourage our friends to be good stewards of the beautiful creation God has given them by keeping their area free of non-biodegradable junk like medicine wrappers and cardboard boxes (which are biodegradable unless they have a plastic coating on them).
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