No one here can escape the foul smell of burning plastic. Last month I ran into the Mayor of Tarlac City ("Ace" Manalang) and confronted him about the widespread dumping of plastic and other waste burning all around the city. He tried to dodge my questions, and kept repeating that: "nothing can be done to change the people".
Is it time to give up on clean air and water? I took to the streets to see what people think, and the results surprised me. I spoke with many different people of all ages, and there was a clear pattern in every instance. Women are aware and concerned about the situation, and actively clean and recycle plastics. Children under the age of ten enjoyed picking up plastics, it is seen as a game that can make a little money.
Most of the men I spoke with were either drinking beer or gin. They were unaware and not concerned by problems created by burning plastics. When asked to help clean up the community along side the women and children, all quickly refused. This is what surprised me, they clearly had nothing better to do, yet refused to help. What was holding them back? These drunken men were ironically concerned about their public image and status within the community. If they were seen cleaning trash they could be labeled a "scavenger".