Global Garbage Time

Global Garbage Time

For several months now, residents of half a dozen towns near Moscow have been protesting against the local government, and the reason is total garbage. Literally. Toxic fumes from local landfills have sent dozens to the hospital and hundreds into the streets. In a country where nearly 90 percent of people say they’d never protest anything, that’s a big deal. But it reflects a broader global trend: global politics is littered with trash these days.


Countries as far afield as Colombia, India, Ghana, the Kurdish Regional Government, and Italy have all recently seen protest or political intrigue about whether the garbage is being picked up and/or where it’s being dropped off. In Lebanon, a trash crisis back in 2015 even gave rise to a national opposition movement called “You Stink” which is looking to shape upcoming legislative elections.

Trash is, in a sense, inherently political. Removing a society’s waste is a basic public service and uncollected trash is an immediate visual — and olfactory — signal that the social contract either doesn’t exist or has broken down. When piles of uncollected trash stifled Naples in 2008 , the Neapolitan novelist Elena Ferrante wrote that it had exposed “the precariousness of every sort of order.”

Setting and preserving that order is only going to get harder in the coming years as poor and developing countries continue to grow. Greater prosperity, urbanization, and consumption all mean more trash as well. The UN says low income cities in Africa and Asia will produce twice as much waste in the next two decades as they do now. Latin America’s trash output is set to rise 60% over the same period.

This puts governments — particularly local ones in emerging economies — in a tough spot: increased prosperity simultaneously generates more waste while also fomenting broader expectations about governments’ ability to perform basic services like waste collection. Globally speaking, it’s garbage time for governments.

"I think there are certain times where you have tectonic shifts and change always happens that way."

On the latest episode of 'That Made All the Difference,' Vincent Stanley, Director of Philosophy at Patagonia, shares his thoughts on the role we all have to play in bringing our communities and the environment back to health.

For many, Paul Rusesabagina became a household name after the release of the 2004 tear-jerker film Hotel Rwanda, which was set during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Rusesabagina, who used his influence as a hotel manager to save the lives of more than 1,000 Rwandans, has again made headlines in recent weeks after he was reportedly duped into boarding a flight to Kigali, Rwanda's capital, where he was promptly arrested on terrorism, arson, kidnapping and murder charges. Rusesabagina's supporters say he is innocent and that the move is retaliation against the former "hero" for his public criticism of President Paul Kagame, who has ruled the country with a strong hand since ending the civil war in the mid 1990s.

More Show less

Bibi's COVID scheming: With coronavirus cases spiking, Israel has imposed a second nationwide lockdown, the first developed country to go back to draconian measures of this kind since the spring. The controversial decision, which came as Israeli Jews prepared to celebrated the Jewish High Holidays, represents a certain failure of Prime Minister Netanyahu's handling of the pandemic, in which Israel emerged as a global case study in how not to reopen after the initial lockdowns. Polls show that two-thirds of the public disapprove of Bibi's handling of the crisis. Many critics suspect the second lockdown — which bans large public gatherings — isn't only about flattening the curve, but about quelling the anti-Netanyahu protests that have gained steam throughout the country in recent months. This all comes as the Israeli government faces an unprecedented crisis: it has failed to pass a budget in two years and its economy is in free fall, sparking fears of another election by year's end (the fourth in less than two years).

More Show less

Gerald Butts, Vice Chairman & Senior Advisor of Eurasia Group, discusses reasons the rapid global response to climate change warrants optimism on UNGA In 60 Seconds.

There's a lot of doom and gloom out there about climate change. Can you give me a reason to be optimistic?

I'm going to say something you don't hear set very often when it comes to climate change. You should be an optimist. You should be a skeptical optimist, but an optimist nonetheless. Let me explain what I mean. We are scaling up climate solutions faster than even the most ardent among us thought possible a decade ago. Consider this. In 2010, about half of US electricity was generated from coal. This year less than 20% will be, and it's trending towards zero at increasing velocity.

More Show less

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

It's UNGA week, very unusual New York to have the United Nations General Assembly meetings. You know, the city is locked down. It's almost always locked down this week, but usually you can't get anywhere because you've got all these marshals with dozens of heads of state and well over a hundred foreign ministers and their delegations jamming literally everything, Midtown and branching out across the city. This time around, the security cordon for the United Nations itself is barely a block, and no one is flying in. I mean, the weather is gorgeous, and you can walk pretty much anywhere, but nothing's really locked down aside from, of course, the fact that the restaurants and the bars and the theaters and everything else is not happening given the pandemic. And it's not just in the US, it's all around the world.

More Show less
UNGA banner

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal

Episode 4: The World Goes Gray

Living Beyond Borders Podcasts