Bodh Mahotsava Cultural Event 3rd- 5th February 2012

Environmental Information Stall in Bodhgaya Cultural Event by Nolan McFadden

On a hot Indian winter morning in early February 2012, our small international group of volunteers and eco-supporters went out on the Kalachakra Maidan in Bodh Gaya to hang the posters and set up the Sacred Earth Trust booth for the colorful and promising Bodh Mahotsava Cultural Festival, a three-day diversity-celebrating event which would bring exciting performers and important officials, along with 50,000 attendees, to this small holy city....

 

As the crowds began to build around two o'clock, we were just getting the last of the informational posters set on their stands and the last of the leaf plates and clay cups set out on the table, our proof positive that life beyond plastic exists for us all! Surrounded by sales booths of wood sculpture, hakka noodles, and cleaning products, the Sacred Earth booth stood out amongst the rest with our colorful recycled bags (made by local ladies!), our example-trash glued to posterboards, and our smiling faces ready to provide greetings, and information on both the harmful effects of plastics and the Bodh Gaya plastic ban to all curious newcomers....

And bunch after bunch of interested faces began to appear in front of us as the days went on; old wise gentlemen, school groups of young girls, professionals with technical questions as to the legal thickness in microns of plastic carry-out bags, mothers with three children in tow, stylish young men and earnest young women, all looking at our pictures of the trash heaps of Bodh Gaya and wondering what we were trying to provide.... The answer? Shoulder bags and awareness!

Over our three days of running the Sacred Earth booth, we had many interesting little vignettes with many local people.... A few come to mind:

• Kids who recognized their family's house behind the trashed-out river in our pictures
• A well-dressed lady who bought four bags, one of each color, in support of the local grassroots industry

• A local man who wondered, after the enforcement of the plastic ban, how he could shop if his tote bag was inconveniently forgotten at home

• A motivated youngster who pledged himself to collecting - and washing! - all the chip bags and similar plastic trash in his school for a future Sacred Earth Trust recycling project

• A bright-eyed girl who wanted to learn everthing she could about plastic reduction, reuse, and recycling, and who promised to share her learnings with all her friends!

We met and shook hands and spoke at length with many people over these three days, watching as they would walk up with looks of confusion and some slight concern, and always walk away with smiles and pamphlets - and sometimes recycled tote bags! Many people we spoke to regarded plastic waste and burning as major environmental challenges facing Bodh Gaya and the whole of India today, and some people seemed to be hearing some harsh facts about plastic for the first time.... Through the whole experience, we were met with a large majority of people who were fully in support of furthering widespread education on environmental stewardship and waste reduction, and loved the idea of useful everyday products being made out of the toss-aways of our overprocessed consumerism....

At the end of the third day, we began dismantling the booth, while bobbing to the rythyms of chanting drummers and watching brilliantly-garbed dancers, representing the people from many different regions of India, whirling and twirling up on the big stage; and we brought down the big Sacred Earth banner on our borrowed ladder just as the ladies with the giant peacock-fans, and the fire-hoopers and flame bursts brought the crowd to ITs feet cheering, and as the crescendo fell away and the celebratory fireworks began, we all felt a collective satisfaction in being part of Sacred Earth Trust, and working for three days of culture that might make an appreciable difference for the environment and culture which we all celebrate....

 

Front: Tiffany the amazing volunteer who helped get the stall together in very short notice. Behind stall: Lillian director of Sacred Earth Trust


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