Amidst the chaos of the election, the Environmental Coalition screened a documentary, Wasteland, on Monday in Olin. The film was different from the typical documentary, in that, it was not purely factual; rather, it included people’s stories and emotions as a way to connect to the audience.
The film’s premise was that of an artist Vik Muniz who incorporates trash and garbage into his art—there is an aspect of transforming the material into art. Muniz spends two years in Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is the world’s largest landfill by the volume of trash that enters it each day.
Given that the city of Rio does not have a recycling center in the city—something the locals have been demanding—an Association of Pickers of Jardim Gramacho formed. The pickers are people who collect recyclables, which are later picked up by the wholesalers. In a sense, their job is to help increase the capacity of the landfill.
The Association of Pickers of Jardin Gramacho, like any other movement, has a hierarchy with a president and vice-president; however, they all work together to reach their goals. For example, some of their movements included a push for paved roads and a sewage system—all of which have been granted to them.
Muniz spends a considerable amount of time concentrating on the lives of the pickers and taking their photographs to later sell them: all profits go to the president of the Association of Pickers of Jardin Gramacho. The focus is on a few out of 2,500 pickers, where we see the abhorrent situations in which they reside; however, they aim to keep a positive perspective on their lives.
Even though the documentary portrays the lives of people living in a lower-income country compared to that of the United States, it is crucial to recognize the impact trash has on people’s lives. We are a nation that has a recycling center in the city and a country that does not have trash flooding the streets; however, we are also a country that is rather careless about their trash.
To learn more about the work the Environmental Coalition is doing and their initiatives, email Noel Potter ’17.