Wednesday, 18 June 2014

"A rose by any other name..."?

Ah, the sweet and pungent smell of summertime in the city! Is there anything more thrilling? Except that this week, the smell is rather more pungent than sweet...thank goodness it hasn't gone above 21C (70F).

On Monday, Rubbish Collectors in the major Dutch cities (Amsterdam, Utrecht and Groningen) went on a a three day strike in support of better pay. As this article outlines, "Waste will not be collected, rubbish bins will not be emptied and there will be no street cleaning." They weren't kidding.

The waste begins to pile up on street corners
It is beginning to feel like some dodgy neighbourhood of Hamburg around here. The Grote Markt looks like a disaster zone. We're much better off than Amsterdam, from what I've seen from photos. Can you imagine what the tourists must think? Amsterdam already smells. (And I say that with the greatest affection as I quite like the city.)

More to the point, what will visitors to our humble northern city think? Now, I'm all for people expressing their rights; and let's be honest, those in the waste removal facilities do a ruddy awful job and deserve a decent wage. I hope they are successful (partly so this mess doesn't happen again).

Equally, I began Monday morning with the hopeful thought that if people saw how much rubbish gets left about the streets, they would be shamed into a self concious realisation. I innocently thought that the Dutch people, with their eco-friendly this, and wind energy that, biologisch everything, bicycle riding mania, recycling, and free thinking, would look around themselves and say, "this isn't on" and the streets would be fine. 

I'm overgeneralising (I know, I know, I do it a lot), because there are many Dutch people that are wonderful in regards to being responsible about their rubbish. However, the current state of the City Centre (including the street I live on: thank you very much, 13 year old schoolchildren from across the road who feel it is perfectly acceptable to leave lunch remains on the front doorstep and windowsills...) is appalling. Completely and utterly appalling.

So it is my hope, that besides the bin men getting fair pay, that the citizens of our three major Dutch cities realise that we too have a responsibility. Thinking "the street cleaners will get it" just won't cut it. In this country, unlike in England, there are bins every few feet - so there is no excuse! In my old city of Cambridge you would be lucky to find a bin within one square mile!   

What also worries me is that the overwhelming infestation of pigeons and seagulls will now fly around with our rubbish in their bodies. It will kill them eventually. Infestation or not, it isn't particularly fair. And what of the rubbish that is now filling the canals after gusts of wind takes them from the street? The rubbish is also undoubtedly attracting underworld gangs of rats and mice, and their cunning counterparts, street cats. Bags are opened for the hope of food, and thus, the contents are dragged all over the streets. (In Colorado, this kind of strike could never happen: we would have bears, coyotes, foxes, and any number of other animals wandering in...) Striking is all well and good, but do we not also have a responsibility to the animals and waterways affected? 

It is, perhaps, a moot point, since the strike has happened, the rubbish has piled up over the three days, and life moves on. However, it is an interesting thing to think about: our responsibilities as a city dweller, as a citizen, as human caretakers of this earth. The actions we take always have an affect. Let us hope that some good can come from the ones we've seen this week. 
Waste will not be collected, rubbish bins will not be emptied and there will be no street cleaning. - See more at: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/06/bin_men_strike_in_amsterdam_ut.php#sthash.QdX33d4A.dpuf
Waste will not be collected, rubbish bins will not be emptied and there will be no street cleaning. - See more at: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/06/bin_men_strike_in_amsterdam_ut.php#sthash.QdX33d4A.dpuf
Waste will not be collected, rubbish bins will not be emptied and there will be no street cleaning. - See more at: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/06/bin_men_strike_in_amsterdam_ut.php#sthash.QdX33d4A.dpuf
Waste will not be collected, rubbish bins will not be emptied and there will be no street cleaning. - See more at: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/06/bin_men_strike_in_amsterdam_ut.php#sthash.QdX33d4A.dpuf