Times of Plenty

Published by: Thomas Schultze-Westrum

We distinguish subjective notions of plenty:

In traditional times‘ confined subsistence economy,

and in the ever growing goods consumption and waste disposal of modern society.

It’s the consumer’s perspective that dominates economy nowadays.

It even relates to the animal kingdom (Bowerbirds).

I have been able to witness all the relevant evolutionary stages —beginning in pre-war times.

So I remember in great detail the years of my childhood in Weisleithen – a remote traditional farm in eastern Bavaria. I had just begun going to elementary school when my mother took me away from Munich to the countryside, at the beginning of the Second World War. The indigenous farmer’s family of Joseph Nöhmeier quasi adopted me and my mother had engaged nurse Ernel from near Dresden to look after me until the war was over and we could return safely to the city (fotos). These were the imprinting years of my life.
American soldiers were the first real strangers I accounted. When they eventually discovered Weisleithen, I was hiding in the forest. But they had come for an amicable barter: a helmet full of freh chicken eggs against some bars of Cadbury schokolade and the first oranges I had seen and tasted.
More than half a century later I was searching for remains of the South Pacific war by the US allies against the Japanese in the jungle and in caves on Biak Island north of New Guinea. Shooting documentary footage for ZDF German Television. Among the derelict war gear I spotted a brown glas bottle with the imprinted letters VINEGAR. And near Biak town on the forest floor I collected another, smaller brown (beer) bottle, with the inscription NO DEPOSIT NO RETURN NOT TO BE REFILLED: a macabre coincidence. Both bottles must have been shipped for consumption from the United States to the horrific battle fields on the South Sea islands.
Years later, when the Internet provided easy access to the history of the brown duroglass beer bottles in the United States, I learnt that bottles with the slogan N0… N0… N0… like the one I collected on Biak Island, were first produced around 1939 (ref. Breweries of Wisconsin; Schlitz Brewery etc.). The trend towards the opposite – against the disposal of empty bottles – initiated the history of recycling instead of throwing away used items. That all happened during the post war time and later during the 1960ies‘ movement towards the (re-) discovery of the environment by urban populations (see below)
How amazing and not the end of discoveries yet! Only last year, in 2013 I detected exactly the same bottle, with the same letters but with a different serial number (fotos of two serial numbers) in our settlement of Kazaviti on Thassos Island, in the ruins of a Mazedonian stone house. There is nobody around anymore who might have been able to throw some light on this coincidence of being taken out of America. I keep both bottles here in my living room, one next to the other – so they could exchanged their adventurous tales. I wished I could sense in the tranquillity of the village their mutual whisper.
Back to my memories of war time Bavaria. The farm Weisleithen was a pure example of the ancient ways of life observing the principles of self made goods (für den Hausgebrauch) at optimal qualities, minimal consumption, and maximal durability. The few items of non-domestic food stuff production were acquired at the village store (Kramerladen or „Tante Emma Laden“) in Stubenberg, operated as a family enterprise by „Kramerin“ Therese Haider; I recall no cans on the shelves and on the counter just paper bags for sugar and other open food stuff. And a scale for measuring the weights of loose food stuff (foto Waage). We had to bring along our own carrier bag or basket. Lemonade („Kracherl“) and low alcohol beer („Schöps“) were again home made or supplied by small village enterprises. Empty bottles were returned to be filled again. Cider (Most) was made from varieties of small pears and apples. It was the regular alcoholic drink. I still keep here the ceramic pitcher I used to carry cider from the large barrels in the basement under the barn, to the farm people harvesting in the summer heat wheat and other grain: mostly barley and oats (foto Krug).
Most customers at the village store were personally known. If no cash was available to pay the bill straight, the debs were pinned down in a carefully kept note book.
At the farm literally nothing was thrown away. Left over food stuff was fed to the pigs and chickens. The meals hardly varied; In the mornings we had boiled salted sour milk (Buttermilch), dark bread from the own oven. (Note:We made our own butter but I cannot recall having seen any on the dining table). Middays we had roasted pickled pork (Surfleisch) or heated smoked pork (Geräuchertes) and potatoes (or Semmelknödel), boiled fermented cabbage (Sauerkraut) from a large wooden barrel; all meals presented in large dishes, one by one (Sauerkraut first) to be shared on the table after prayers . At festive occasions a chicken (Giggerl) or pigeons replaced the usual pork (foto Daubnreindl), and sweets were prepared: „Dampfnudln mit Kruste“ and fried „Kiacherl“. Short meals/rests (Brotzeit) were observed in the late mornings and afternoons There was no desire expressed, as far as I can think back, for imported goods; they remained unmentioned or unfamiliar, or totally unknown.
In later years I learnt that this description indeed is representative, not exceptional: bits and pieces of cloth, news papers and magazines (foto magazine Teatris), other paper items, various lengths of natural string neatly rolled up; carefully folded used paper bags for carrying goods not envisaged yet: all these assets were added to the things already accumulating in the loft of farmhouses I had the prilege to visit.
Here on Thassos similar observations were made. As an exception I refer to gift items for Christmas and various other celebrations: Shoe shine creme, artificial flowers; bisquits in beautifully decorated tin containers (fotos), the latter re-used once emptied for keeping fresh ground coffee, for instance (foto Kaffeebehälter Kyria Eleni Douka) In several abandoned family mansions I secured personal letters, various other documents dating back as far as 1840 and photographs; the oldest glass negatives dating from the first decade of the 20th century .
I preserved even a piece of broken window glass carefully wrapped in medical bandage (fotos of objects and Takis Panteli in his kitchen). I keep these objects for a kind of village museum: It should demonstrate that we did not miss much if anything in the old days. And how in our society an appetite grew after the mid fifties for more and more along all the temptation of modern consumer society. In our subjective views of plain rural life style we had plenty at times of quite limited supply.
In Munich we lived in Normannenstrasse of Bogenhausen. I remember me walking barefoot across the adjoining wide public land collecting sheep droppings as fertilizer for tomatoes and vegetables in our small garden. And I was wearing Lederhosen for convenience for most of the warm season.
Milk products in limited quantities and qualities we bought at Bieber’s dairy shop in the same street. I had to bring our own enamelled pan to be filled by the milk woman from a large metal container with a metered dipper.
For bread I had to queue up after school at a bakery in Pfarrstrasse next to Max II Denkmal. Most bread in these post war times contained a mix of potatoes. Not always I was lucky to fetch a loaf.
Highest credit goes to the American and Swiss initiators of the CARE humanitarian help programme: It was a tremendous operation launched by private benefactors. The American government had permitted the sending of CARE parcels in February 1946. Almost a ten million were sent to German families (-infos courtesy Wikipedia). I remember my delighted and grateful mother receiving and unpacking several parcels of delishious goodies, from a Swiss lady of Zurich, Mrs Schuler: we met later and exchanged letters for years to come.
Then, on 20 June 1948 the new German currency was introduced, per head 40 DM were granted. Amazing how quickly all sorts of goods appeared in the shop windows; they must have been kept away from the eyes of the public. These days I walked from Isartorplatz towards Viktualienmark: in a electro shop the shelves were filled suddenly with electric irons, hoovers, and other household gear I never had seen before at any shop. At the Max II Monument a street vendor offered the first ice „creme“; it was just frozen water of green colour with only little sugar added.
Quickly though the public noted the dilemma of lacking quality in the goods now readily available over the counter. And the evolutionary process of environmental awareness and behaviour was initiated in due course (see the chapters in my conservation articles); as a response by urban society.
I had become a member of Bund Naturschutz in Bayern in the same year 1948. The slogan of N0 – N0 – N0 of the 1939ies was abandoned and the first re-cycling was promoted by NGOs.
Recalling the samples of luxuriant lifestyle even on the battlefield (of New Guinea, see above ), and summarizing what I have just pointed out, the birth of„Konsumverhalten“ originated in America but was adopted widely and promoted further by European nations: terms like Müll or garbage came in vogue. So it became a fashion right to recent days, to separate garbage from households in earmarked containers, as to facilitate re-cycling of printed or illustrated paper items, newspapers and magazines and other categories of used goods like cloths and glass. In a suburb of Mainz I witnessed the ritual: every bit of out of use (scrap) metal, for instance, was driven to a central collecting point – I am still wondering if the expenses for fuel, and the mental efforts were justified. In their own gardens these self- acclaimed entrepreneurs of nature appraisal sprayed pesticides to enjoy an immaculate blossom of their roses; and these environmentally conscious people even installed ultrasonic devices to frighten away moles so to keep them off the uni-green lawn. Is that the environmental innovation that was and still is so highly praised?
The first Supermarket after American examples was inaugurated by entreprenoir Bücherl at Herkomer Platz in walking distance from our home. Meanwhile a total of 143 Supermarkets has opened in Munich including markets specializing in oriental and other exotic foodstuff (according to google search machine). An impressive arraw of more than 3.500 food, drinks and cosmetic articles were on display/offer in one particular Munich supermarket. Following the newest trend, the Herkomer site was converted to a bio market (Bio Volet – courtesy Wikipedia).
And in other European countries? No such evolutionary agenda applied for Albania until the nation was first acessible after 40 years of socialist isolation. So conditions were to a great deal comparable with the war years as described above.When the country was opened in the early 1990ies, the national environmental education lagged behind as much as the supplies of food stuff. Queues for bread in front of bakeries reminded me strongly of my own task of bringing home a loaf of bread.
But then I witnessed the invasion of trucks after trucks on the road from Greece to the town of Gjirokastra in southern Albania and further on to the capital of Tirana: Up to the roof these huge vehicles were loaded with palettes of Coca Cola and Sprite cans: no such thing had been known here before; so there existed no concerns, neither what happened or rather what to do with the cans once emptied. They were simply thrown away over the fence of the quickly built unlicened kiosks in the public parks of Tirana. The stone pebble streets of Gjirokastra resounded from empty Coca Cola cans being kicked about by kids for fun. Plastic bags after their first use were thrown out and blown by the wind to get hooked on barbed wire fences.
Many of these metal fences existed already under the regime of Enver Hoxha; brilliant examples of re-cycled metal sheets stamped out in factories for shaping spoons and forks (foto metal fences).
From that rather chaotic period it took a fair number of years for educating consumers to handle their garbage. It was a self-imposed internal adaptation in the course of the dramatic social revolution.
There were no toys avalable in shops. So good fathers and older brothers at home built for the kids an amazing array of toys from thrown away materials – also Coca cans. I considered collecting samples for a museum exhibition of these admirable time documents, but how could I take away from the kids their only beloved toy…
Before the beginning of the new millenium Albania had surpassed neighbouring Greece in keeping the national realm tidy (see separate article Thassos – a garbage place)
Quite distinct developments I watched in the Sultanate of Oman – a rich oil producing country: In the 1980ies the German company Strabag had built the long distance highways in perfection. And along these desert routes Indian laborers were employed to collect all the cans and other litter thrown out from the car windows with no hesitation. Certainly a method of quickly achieving cleanliness for the country’s image, but without any evolutionary mechanism to develop a long-term self-regulating operation of keeping the country clean. All along the Al Batinah coastal region of Northen Oman plenty of plastic bags and other plastic stuff littered the settlements without much attention if any.
In various indigenous societies world-wide the process of avoiding to throw away used goods after they had became obsolete in their first utilization, lead to behavioural patterns then deeply rooted in their customary ways of life. A good example is the harvest of coconuts. In villages of the Papuan Gulf region houses were built on stilts, of sago palm sticks, vines and palm tree bark for flooring . In order to raise the alluvial muddy land to become firm ground for the stilts to lift the floor level above high tides, coconut husks were not thrown away but carefully piled up in squares along the walk ways and dwellings.in the villages (fotos Ubuo village). The site of Kinomere village on Urama Island looks like an elevated hill (foto Kinomere), from some distance, built up in the course of seven hundred years of continuously adding strata of husks and other debris (cf. Vanderwal …). This longterm undertaking was successful because there was no break in the supply of materials; neither in further demand. And the communal constellation continued as well.
In traditional indigene (tribal) society an internal limitation of behaviour was significant – as compared with an immense variety of traditional patterns between these tribal units. For instance: The ethnic units of Papuans on the southern coast of New Guinea maintained a much restricted main diet of sago and crabs. But in total the tribal inhabitants of New Guinea had a rather large variety in their food. Approx. 1.000 varieties of bananas world wide have been distinguished, but each Papuan tribe associated with just a few of them. Dates present a similar picture in Arabian countries. The Jebali people of southern Oman/Dhofar specialize in a diet of mainly jogurt – rob from cattle and goat milk. In order to carry the cattle through the dry season, the Jebali feed them with sardines caught by large seine nets: tons and tons mainly in March, prior to the monsoon season. Part of the catches was used as fertilizers. But during recent years such over-exploitation has caused a serios drop in the quota caught.(cf. my 1995 film documentation for the Survival programme of Anglia TV: The Wind of Plenty). And one more example for traditional limitation of diet: the Hunza people of north-western Pakistan lived on dried apricots of an endemic variety as their prinzipal nutrition (The kernels were processed as an organic medication).
The restriction of available goods in traditional times was not felt as a depravation as long as society was intact as a communal entity like for instance functioning tribal society or the units of rural subsistence described above. People were content (to a larger or smaller degree) because they were accustomed without an offer of alternatives to the ways of life of their own community they identified with. But it should remain clear that the cultural patters of neighbouring communities induced, as a matter of cource, an evident desire for innovations and (forced) adaptation of certain cultural patterns or particular goods in focus.
Modern, mostly urban societies undergo an evident disintegration of their traditional communal bonds and inherited system of material distribution and consumption.. Barter is out of function at large. What we term Consum evolved in the course of the communal changes in daily life subsistence:I have drawn a sketch of how supermarkets took up the role of providing to the public the massive supply that is imperative in the new consumer’s diverse/uninhibited projection/expectations – as it was crucial in order to keep up with developments. Consum has no ceiling; demand on the market continues to grow. So the indication of „plenty“ relates to the overall modern aspects in a relative way – like the steady offers in the old days compare with desires to amass more after having entered the consumer’s club, in the updated times of plenty.
The main incentive for potential consumers to enter this ever widening range of attractive offers depends upon the undefined social disposition of modern society we identify as uninhibited drive in post-traditional evolution of mankind. Whereby social factors occupy a paramount significance (for further reading I refer to my book Biologie des Friedens of 1974).
The perfect presenter of this communal disposition in my comparative projection is a drab-looking bird: the Gardener Bowerbird (Amblyornis inornatus) in the Arfak Mountains of New Guinea. It is acclaimed as the best builder in the animal kingdom (fotos bowers). I had the exciting opportunity to observe 4 individual male birds over the years from 1995 to 2002, for up to 2 weeks on every visit – mostly doing conservation work and taking birders to the location of Syordóbei above Anggra village (fotos of guest houses at Syordóbei).. and shooting a documentary episode for ZDF German TV.
Each bird under observation kept to its individual patterns of construction and decoration. When a edifice was getting affected by climatic influences and had to be rebuilt, the individual characterists were maintained (for instance the entrance being located not in front but on the left side). And equally the individual preference for certain decorations was continued (for instance the display of small blue berries, but otherwise only a modest variety of natural colours). Seasonal differences in the forest, the appearence of certain kinds of mushrooms, berries and flowers in blossom were selected in a striking manner:
Out of the large variety of available attractive natural objects, the bird selected only a very limited amount for decorating its bower. The natural objects I presented (and were presumably recognized) were thrown out from the display ground instantly. Is it because I had disturbed the decorative arrangement? Certain blackish mushrooms were collected once in season without providing any particular attractiveness to my cognition. There is reason to suspect that those mushroom or other natural taxa (e.g. wings of beetles) were assembled which did not decay quickly but kept their appearance for a longer time as compared with other species which were ignored.
I consider these behavioural characteristics as homologous with the traditional stages of human evolution. But there is more to it: Individual birds whose territories were located near to a human settlement, collected a noticeable amount of plastic materials (garbage). At our observation site of Syordóbei there was no such imported material available. So I offered to one particular male bird several plastic bags and other unusual objects in various distances from the bower. The response was dramatic: The bird behaved as if it were obsessed: Any of the offered objects, without distinction what colour or texture, the bird picked up instantly and flew with this precious, but scaringly noisy load straight to the bower. And by repeating this operation literally filled all the space in its bower and on the front lawn.
I filmed this episode in 1995 for ZDF Telezoo.
The question is significant why the Arfak bower bird does not take possession of regular natural objects by its consumer habits, but rather relates to the supply of locally available goods in a controlled, restrictive traditional manner. Apparently this is not the case, when the objects in question are still strange and void of inherited relations to the bird. So that there was no previous evaluation.
I compare this animal behavioural scenario in several ways with human consumers behaviour. Here and there no limits are drawn, no indications of customers being content as compared within traditional society.
Note: The Arfak Mountains Hattam tribe call the bower bird Mpredgéu, The Stranger. It is regarded as a mysterious almost human being as it also can talk and imitate any sound like the Australian lyre bird.
The concept of goods assembly by the Arfak bowerbird rather compares in an analogous way with the cargo cult drama of South Pacific tribes (quote literature – Tommy Kabu Movement, Purari Delta).
I wish to refer here also to the customary and modern cloths of Gihiteri villagers in the Papuan Gulf region – instead of making their own cloths from bush materials any more they assemble nowadays a collection of worn rags, we would classify best as recycled garbage (fotos Gihiteri people in „Lumpen“ and traditional festive costumes, both on display on the same day.). The dominant attractiveness of these imports to still largely traditional societies may be directly compared with that of the plastic items assembled by the Arfak bowerbird, – in a homologous way.
These observations of consumers‘ habits ( and of earlier traditional habits ) lead us to a fundamental insight of how the social bonds that are characteristic for intra – group traditional relations in indigenous tribal or other small society (village) units, were maintained/preserved by (better: as ? ) their traditional ways of life. Only after the dramatic dissolve of tribal population structure and of the attached communal identities, customers‘ attitudes changed and formed the new anonymous consumers‘ order, the consum.
I refer here to my book of 1974 Biologie des Friedens, the chapter: Das Wirkungsgefüge echter Tradition.
It should be correct to point out distinct traditional village architecture as a subject of fast abandonment after the invasion of modern rather faceless housing – again seen (or considered ?) as an element of consum. For example the abandoned ceremonial longhouses in the Papuan Gulf region or the Ondoforo. edifices at Lake Sentani and their non-style shanty town substitutes.
Only in the wake of the old social order being disrupted and the individual members of inherited small scale societies disintegrated, the consumer movement without boundaries could have taken on the current vehement expansion. To the contrary, as the full picture, we also notice an attitude and praxis in samples like the bottles found on Biak island (see above), for an already existing consum by the American people’s economy and life style. In post-war times this American model was distributed worldwide as the American Way.
Consumer society is also identified by the way goods are being selected: by no means only what people buy in a supermarket for reasons of satisfying daily nutricional needs, but rather as a regular habit not really observed for reasons of survival, but to a significant extent so called „luxory articles“ for comfort. To the extent of becoming a symptom of modern, mostly urban standards of fashion. And again this allocation of consumers in urban-style congregations, the garbage from the ceiling-less arrangement of goods is effected as a consequence of consum in the way of garbage disposal and re-cycling in urban settlements and their extended territories („Entsorgung“).
In the years after WW II we felt uneasy to obtain fruit and vegetables out of their season all the year round – for extended availabitity less quality was accepted.
We got to recognize the causal links in the modern consumer markets: The majority of foodstuff articles or drinks are traded in stiff competion to each other by wholesale companies operating in professional conjunction with adversising agenzies and in accord with hygienic regulations. The diversity or rather the multiple offering/advertising of goods on the shelves of supermarkets gives the impression of „plenty more“ at the times of expansion, as already acclaimed earlier in this essay: I regard the coverage as misleading as far as the high diversity of consumer goods is supposed to stand for satisfaction that results from plenty as an indication of no significant desiderata remaining in traditional society versus the never ending unrest in consumer society to get even more.
This paragraph (and others ?) may look a bit too complex; so I am repeating certain messages for the sake of closer comprehension and acceptance:
The key criteria for either the relative or absolute interpretation of „plenty“ should be traced in view of the high grade communal bondage in small scale (village) society. Only in such traditional, fully bonded indigenous society a satisfactory acceptance of the limited but highly valued local provisisions can be identified (or:established?).
Auszüge aus meinen Notizen:
Konsum ist charakteristisch für traditionslose und ungebundene Gesellschaften = kommunale Verbände..
Es können aber auch in der anonymen urbanen Grossgesellschaft auf der Grundlage von solidarischen Verhaltensmustern bestimmte Verhaltensfolgen über den Zeitraum von mehreren Generationen eingehalten werden. (siehe das Kapitel Die solidarische Gesellschaft, in Biologie des Friedens 1974). Ich nenne als Beispiel den Ess/Geschmackstrend für Pommies, Kartoffelchips + Ketschup und Nescafé – beide verpackt in der bekannten Aufmachung. Besonders aufwendig das Café set (Plastikbecher, Trinkhalm, Zucker in Tütchen und Plastikumhüllung für das gesamte Paket. Siehe Foto): eine der schlimmsten Wegwerf-Müllsorten unserer Zeit – No Return… Vergleiche damit die Schilderung der Essgewohnheiten in Weisleithen (Kartoffeln).
Brot als weitere tag-tägliche Nahrung. Seit Urzeiten.
White or dark bread and potatoes present the longest record as day to day basic food in European countries. Potatoes were imported from South America ( Peru), first as delicatessen, around 1570 to 1590. In Ireland the cultivation of potatoes was disrupted by an epidemic disease, to the extent that famine caused a dramatic emigration to the United States.
Quote from www.kluhg-eg.de: Die Kartoffel (lat. Solanum tuberosum L.)– neben Tomaten, Paprika und Tabak eine Nutzpflanze aus der Familie der Nachtschattengewächse (Solanaceae) – ist allen anderen Kulturpflanzen der Menschheit in der Produktion von Eiweiss pro Zeiteinheit und Fläche überlegen. Das Kartoffeleiweiss enthält essentielle Aminosäuren, die andere Pflanzen nicht produzieren und ist deshalb für die menschliche Ernährung sehr wertvoll. Kartoffeln werden weltweit auf 20,3 Millionen Hektar angebaut und rangieren nach Weizen, Reis und Mais mit einem Weltgesamtertrag von jährlich 300 Millionen Tonnen an vierter Stelle der am häufigsten angebauten Nutzpflanzen. In der Schweiz z.B. werden jährlich auf einer Fläche von 16000 Hektar Kartoffeln angepflanzt (End of inserts)
Im subjektiven Empfinden abhängig vom Grad der kommunalen Bindung – werden keine Alternativen erwünscht noch de facto angenommen.
Der kritische Punkt: plenty = ausreichend viel; wird so empfunden weil Bindung vollständig, weil deshalb die Versorgung als ausreichend, zufriedenstellend betrachtet wird.
Das „plenty“ auf traditionelle Gesellschaft bezogen gilt als absolut – ohne Einschränkung. Dagegen ist das plenty Konsum Etikett bezeichnend für die Fülle und ist doch nicht zufriedenstellend. Weil ohne kommunale Bindung die Verbindlichkeit fehlt.
In der Formel NO – NO – NO (Flaschen Biak – Thassos) wird Verantwortlichkeit für Konsumabfall abgewiesen. Man wollte sich aus der Affäre ziehen. Erst durch wachsendes pro-Umweltverhältnis von anderen Leitsätzen verdrängt. Siehe jedoch weiter oben in den Notizen das Beispiel Verpackung Nescafe.
In meiner Kindheit gab es weder Konsum noch Müll: quasi naturgegeben – naturbelassen.
Vielfalt im Eigenbereich (Beispiel Schrebergarten), steht gegen Supermarkt/Konsum.
Vielfalt verlagert sich von Eigenproduktion (Schrebergarten) auf Supermarkt.
Notiert in einer ZDF Sendung: „Anschaffungsneigung“ und „Konsumklima“.
Siehe mehrere Kapitel in meiner Publikation: TITI – Evolution of decorative art in the Papuan Gulf region of New Guinea, zum Thema kulturelle Vielfalt in Stammesgemeinschaften (diversity versus identity).
Traditionelle Vielfalt (Rassen, Sorten) in der traditionellen Landwirtschaft heute aktiv behütet, z. B. von der Gesellschaft für die Erhaltung alter und gefährdeter Haustierrassen e.V., von mir 1981gegründet (siehe Artikel Es begann in Niederbayern): In the Name of Conservation).
Mini-Auberginen mit ganz feiner weicher Haut entdeckt im Dorf Lopintol, Waigeo Island, Raja Ampat Archipel, West Papua.
Müll ist eine Folgeerscheinung/Konsequenz, ist eine der Konsequenzen von Konsum(-Verhalten).
Unsere moderne Konsumgesellschaft: Konsum führt zu Müll/garbage – wie entsorgt?
Abfall – abfällig.
Müll ist ein Symptom (exponent) moderner Lebensweise, primär im urbanen Bereich. Dagegen stehen meine Erinnnerungen an den Kramerladen in Stubenberg.
Consuming goods ranks high on the agenda of urban society. The leftovers have turned to a negative image/attitude – that of waste or litter.
Recycling bedeutet entweder Wiederholung derselben Verwendung oder neue Verwendung; Verlängerung der Verwendung.
Recycling is rather a delay of final decay. Or an extension of life for the things concerned.
Ende der eingefügten Notizen.
Hence the follow up consumer attitude cannot reach satisfaction once the just mentioned communal bondage in the urban environment. has disintegrated; even where the volume and diversity of offered goods exceeds at large that of traditional times. (I refer here to my earlier descriptions of Weisleithen and Stubenberg) – in consequence of the new consumer practize of goods presentation in modern society (Verpackungsindustrie et cetera), as well as in further consequence of accumulating and disposal of garbage/waste and partial recycling. So the interdependence originates from traditional subsistence, moves on to consumer methods and – not yet fully accepted – reaches a final stage of multiple usage.
In present times recycling is only partly practicable and hardly efficient enough to be seen as a completed working stage of evoluntionary nature. It’s role rather classifies as a mechanism for extending the usage of certain articles.The throw away society occupies much more space as yet. And still a Coke can undergoes profound quality changes when emptied. It’s either recycled or thrown away (see the passage on Albania). In fact the contents count in terms of quality as compared with it’s presentation (Die Substanz zählt de facto, nicht die Verpackung). So recycling in too many ways presents a distorted picture of environmental management:
Paper for instance can only be treated and re-used two or three times, then it is worn out, to the thrown away for good. In that respect the inscription on the beer bottle I found on the war field on Biak Island (see above: NO – NO -NO) was’nt that far from environmental concerns in post war time ideologies. We have noted earlier in this presentation the unproportionally high significance of recycling in view of environmental concerns. At school in Stubenberg we, the pupils, were given slate pencils (Griffel) to write on slate boards (Schiefertafeln). But we were not educated to „safe“ paper that way; it was just the older way of doing things.
The use of glass panes instead of wooden window casements may have evolved in a similar way, but here even nowadays villagers point to the high price of glass panes as compared with all wood. (I refer to a piece of pane wrapped in medical bandage found in the storage room of the house Zografou). Last year (2014) I did a count of the remaining all – wood windows and dormer – windows of traditional Mazedonian stone houses and the oldest church Zoodochou Pigis in our village of Kazaviti on Thassos: just 3 samples were still in operation (Foto Holzfenster Kirche. Note the sophisticated mechanism for ventilation and the destruction by bulldozer of another remaining one). Whereby the quality to economize in traditional times had it’s own right of standing. For example: Harvesting wheat or barley by the farmers was followed by landless gleaners gathering by hand every single straw bearing grain that was left behind from the prime harvest on the bare soil (Ährenlese).
In order to combat the growing volume of dumped garbage as a consequence of raising standards in urban lifestyle, in future consumer society, educational efforts will certainly have a prime impact: They will result in less packing, adequate disposal and more re-cycling.
However the removal of garbage appers as a very delicate issue on Thassos Island where I live. When the EU had ordered the closure of several dumping sites because of sub-standard treatment of whatever had been accumulating there, quite often on fire, the result now is worse than before: People do not bother driving their pickups fully loaded to the mostly quite distant official sites but just skip it all at any spot along the main roads to get rid of it; not only quickly rotting stuff, but refrigerators, washing machines etc as well. It’s the same routing for holiday makers during the summer months..
At the centre of Kazaviti village the square itself is kept neatly clean every day of the season. No leaf of the plane trees is allowed to stay. But a few steps below at the central parking facility there was not even a container available to dispose the garbage, plastic, cans and other ugly, smelling stuff. The village cultural society then ordered a few containers to be placed also at this parking facility, but that was it: no service, nobody emptied or cleaned these containers. So I offered my assistance and kept the containers in tidy operation. „ Do’nt do it“, the locals urged me, but I did not listen to their warning– until I began to understand the system or rather the lack of any. As soon as residents became aware of the new service they did not bother to carry their garbage in bags to the more distant collection site at the periphery of the village (Foto Müllplatz; the first sight for visitors are these shamles!). At „my“ containers the flood of litter accumulated instead. Even pampers were dumped there – until I got fed up and left the scene unattended. But fully informed the village society. Nothing happened – until a nearby neighbour protested against the strong smell. Eventually he got so angry that he emptied all containers at the public well on the parking area. Regardless of the nearer distance to the village dumping site. Only then the containers were removed and things returned to normal. The containers got decorated by flowering plants from a Thassos garden centre. I still collect garbage – in my own carrier bag – because I am ashamed to live here in the vicinity of people that lack Greek village style or any culture..
THASOS – SKOUPIDOTOPOS (=Müllplatz)
– published in the weekly newspaper Thasion Gi
In the old days there was no waste problem, because all the modern unreasonable packing materials of plastic did not exist and much was kept to be used again. It was the residents pride to keep their villages clean and to litter the landscape was not even thought of. In those earlier times the Island of Thasos rightly deserved the attribute “beautiful” – but who actually cared about such phrases then; it was simply a matter of course.

Things have changed drastically since: Tourism promotion applies a whole arsenal of empty phrases to praise the beauty of Thasos and at the same time the remaining real beauty is being destroyed, littered, defaced more and more on every day of the week, year after year. So what is left of attractiveness apparently has not caught the eyes and mind of tourism promotors yet. Because otherwise how could one comprehend this complete lack of action to PRESERVE the remaining natural beauty of Thasos and to keep the villages and the landscape clean.
And what has happened to the former pride of the local people? How possibly can such deeply rooted attitude vanish? Only the local themselves may have an explaining answer. I have none!

This article should be understood as a desperate call for action, by a foreigner who first came to Thasos when it was still rather immaculate. He fell in love with the fully traditional village of Kazaviti in 1973 – and now he is in agony and even tears because he must watch this crazy ongoing destruction and pollution of the most beautiful village he has discovered on his travels all the world over. This destruction has many ugly faces: modern buildings and installations, the abundant use of cement, the disregrad of the legal obligations to conform with the conservation regulations, waste water pollution etc… and the skoupidia problem. I am limiting this article to the latter: All Thasos became a skopidotopos!

I wish to point out to the reader that Thasos is ideally suited for hiking tourism: a network of monopatia is an absolute priority object in tourism promotion. We have interviewed hikers from several European countries, mostly German nationals. They where enthusiastic about the great diversity of destinations, but heavily complained about the lack of guiding: there is no reliable map, only a few marked trails. One does not need to set paint marks every few meters! NO, that is a pollution in itself. Foot paths should be kept in their natural condition, narrow and not overdone. Only some marking, placing of signboards and some clearing of branches and thorny shrubs have to be done. But actually should be done!

The main complain of hiking tourists, however, was focusses on skoupidia, all over the landscape, everywhere: lorries full of everything that can be moved and dumped: including refrigerators, washing machines, all sorts of plastic articles, building materials, scrap, car wrecks, just everything litters the fringes of main and smaller roads. Even the holy places of several small churches in the Thassian landscape have become deposits of plastic and other garbage. All that is an annoying, most ugly image, dirty and a health hazard – and certainly a main factor that blocks countryside tourism development! A blow in the face of educated and caring, nature loving and respectful visitors to Thasos. No tourism enterprise would reveal this real image of the island; so those sensitive visitors only detect the truth after arrival. They are annoyed and never return, nor would they recommend a hiking holiday here on Thasos to anyone.
Even at those resting places which the Dasarchion has installed along the ring road: again skoupidia, because there is no organised cleaning and regular waste collection service. Can one believe that the owner of a taverna (who earns money from tourism) dumps his old grill (psistaria) into the landscape near the village: come to Kazaviti and see it with your own eyes!

I have collected tons of skoupidia with my own hands over the years. But the flood continues: Some residents still dump their household garbage in plastic bags in the periphery of the village, because they are too lazy to walk the distance to the public garbage container. Along the asphalt road from Prinos to Kazaviti several lorries fully of everything ugly one can imagine was thrown down into the gorge below. When my son Matthias recently re-opened up the old, abandoned track (monopati) from Prinos along the gorge up to Kazaviti, again dumped waste was discovered all along. It is such a depressing sight! We are ashamed of revealing this disregard of basic human standards of respect of the local people towards foreign visitors.

Serious health hazards may be caused by this waste disposal in the open landscape – and even at the officially established waste deposit areas: mercury from the many dumped batteries, lead and other poisonous substance drain into the soil, into the underground water. Precipitation washes the chemicals into the sea: marine pollution is impending; who wants to consume contaminated fish? Certainly not the environmentally conscious tourist!

No initiatives of waste chorismó. No biologiko katharismó neither. All settlements with a population of above 2.000 residents are legally obliged by the EU to build by 2005 such waste water plant as the waste water otherwise would pollute a “sensitive area”, in this case the coast lines. What happened with the project of building a biologiko katharismos at Prinos: for months and months the lorries carried basa from a mountain site? But the biologiko was never completed. All that money was wasted…

How little the awareness of the natural and cultural assets is developed amongst local planners is evident: the official dumping place (skopidotopos) of Prinos was allocated many years ago at an archaeological site of high monument value and tourism attractiveness, so what can one expect from the authorities? Have they ever sent anyone to clean up the village of Kazaviti? Only the village square is regularly cleaned up the the tavernas. Otherwise who cares…When the new drinking water reservoir (dexamini) of Kazaviti was built under contract by the Dimos of Thasos, the ergolavos left all the waste behind: loads of plastic, materials and that at the spot from where the monopati to the small church of Ag. Ioannis should start from… only after repeated reminders over many months the plastic and metal was eventually collected. But the ugly sight of the dexamini’s cement construction remains – very inviting indeed! In other countries such public building are covered by a sufficiently high wall of soil plus a belt of planted shrubs and paint. But here…just have a look around!

When arriving by car at Kazaviti, at the cement-iron “bridge“ construction (a monument in its own right of wrong planning, ugliness and waste of money!) what do the visitors spot? First the metal garbage container that is far below standards and totally inacceptable, then the litter all around it, then the wreck of a vehicle left by the ergolavos of the dexamini, plastic hoses, remains of building materials of all sorts. And looking into the gorge: masses of rubble from building sites, broken bricks and tiles, other waste. When the winter rains transformed the stream into a powerful river, the red pieces of tiles were washed far down the gorge and now litter the most beautiful and so far immaculate gorge. Who will ever clean up this mess?

The gorges in particular seem to be considered only of some use as dumping sites. Very few local people ever venture into these gorges, walk through through this magic scenery of ancient plane trees, huge boulders of rock, idyllic spots by pools of still cool fresh water even in the summer, archaic dams erected by settlers in prehistoric times. These gorges are relics of immense value and unique monuments of nature and culture combined. Actually they should be prime targets for protection. In reality, however, there is a continuous danger hanging over these refuges of nature: that someone will come up with a crazy plan: either to dig for gold in the gorge with a huge “Fuchs” (as it happened twice in 2004), or to pollute its pure water by releasing the waste water from the village votrous, or … as it was proposed in a meeting at the Kinotita Prinou already in the 1990s when discussing the building of an airstip in the wetland of Prinos, by an educated medical doctor: “Ta bpasa ta paroume apo thous lakkous pou then pernai kanenas”…

A channel of fresh water from the wetland behind Skala Prinou remained as habitat and retreat of tortoises. Tourists stopped at the little stream by the bridge and feed the tortoises: one positive element in the variety of tourism attractions that counts. But the visitor’s eyes are equally offenced by all the dumped waste in the stream: plastic bottles, skrap metal, other… Who would ever clean up this spot? And now: a filthy sewer replaced the stream and all the tortoises are gone…Who acually does understand here on Thassos what good quality tourism is all about?

Nearby the wonderful traditional boat building and repair workshop (karnaio), a family enterprise of proud heritage of knowledge and skills! One of the last remaining ones in northern Greece. A focal tourism attraction which only has to be made a bit more accessible and explained to the fascinated foreigners… It’s hard to believe: This real asset, this real tourism attraction, THIS REAL RELIC OF ANCHIENT HELLENIC SEAFARING TRADITION, this living monument is considered even at official level as a “pollution” that defaces the waterfront, the beach. Evidently, there is no imagination and sense for quality, no vision, no understanding on the side of the planners? Or just a careless response to those people who complain about this “blemish on the beach” and wish to add another average and boring hotel at the site. What a weird and annoying scenario that is…

The current invasion of wasteful goods, of commercial exploitation and the offending disregard for the islands values swapped over the island like a huge filthy wave.
What did a senior Thassian local say to me years ago: you know, he said, what our island really needs: that it is being submerged in the sea for just ten minutes. Then it will be clean again…
I did not comment. And I have no more tears neither– rather plain anger comes up when looking at Thasos how it is being mistreated and robbed of all her beauty that had survived over so many civilisations since ancient times…

Dr. Thomas Schultze-Westrum
SOS Kazaviti
23 June, 2005

Continuing Times of Plenty:
The oceans must be considered as the largest dumping site on this globe -which most people still dare to claim as their own. An estimated five billion plastic particles float on the surface, according to an estimate by ZDF Television (11 Dec., 2014); that equals almost 270.000 tons. I had to witness this incredible pollution myself in the most sensitive region, the coral triangle west and north of New Guinea: I had proposed there the first marine conservation area (=marine national park) Teluk Chend(e)rawasih in 1979. In later years, while travelling by the state shipping line Pelni, on board KM Dobonsolo, from Nabire to Jayapura, I had to witness the crew throwing overboard all garbage in large plastic bags regardless of the conservation status.
Even remote beaches and coral islands were littered to a disgusting extent.
These incidences remind me of the other marine park which I first proposed in 1976, of Alonnisos, Northern Sporades in the Aegean Sea. When the Greek navy bombarded during their exercises the virgin white marble coast of the island of Skantzoura, the official excuse was just: “sorry, we did not know this is a national park.. .”

At last the finale: The large parking area of ZDF Television in Mainz Lerchenberg was (and probably still is) a death trap for uncounted earth worms moving about on the cement floor during rainy weather. Many drown because they cannot get up again to the elevated .land they descended from. I saved plenty of these worms by lifting them back up again from the cemented ground to the soil of green lawns.
There comes only one more story: The TRAM electric railway extends from the city of Mainz to the suburbs. The further it travels the less people remain on board to descend. When the tram stopped at my station I looked arond for more leaving passangers and used the same door as they had chosen– in order to save public electricity.

These are just two examples for how all of us, all citizens can made their small contributions, in the Name of Conservation.

Draft Text completed on 30 Jan. 2015

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