Popular Posts

Monday, June 8, 2009

Random Sustainable Thoughts

Yesterday the group did what Americans do best, inject cash into the economy by shopping for arts and crafts for friends and families back home (no more details are allowed we don't want to spoil any surprises). Following our shopping spree we were scheduled to tour the Bugandan Parliament and the Bugandan King's Palace. As the largest tribe in Uganda, the Bugandans still have a large influence in Ugandan society and thier parlment still meets regularly. Fred Luganda (one of our colleagues from MUBS who has posted previously on the blog) and I went ahead to make sure the tour was arranged. While driving we went past a series of street lights, each light pole had a small solar panel and small turbine on it. The purpose was to charge the batteries for the lights, conserving electricity. This is one example of how Uganda utilizes its limited energy resources efficiently. Here at Red Chilli each electrical outlet has a switch on the outlet so you can turn off the outlet instead of needlessly running a charger etc. similarly the water heater has a switch so it will not consume electricity all day, just when needed for hot water. The light bulbs are all high efficiency (and a little dim). While many of the Ugandan conservation efforts are out of necessity as opposed to a desire to decrease energy consumption, it does allow the visitor from the US a chance to think about the way we needlessly waste energy. When we get back to the states I hope that we all remember the little things like the switches on the outlets and ask if they were really a major problem or instead an example we should follow. Maybe we can all do a little more to conserve energy and think twice about leaving our phone chargers plugged in all day etc. Students - what have you observed that makes you reevaluate the way we live our normal lives in the US? What lessons can be learned from the Ugandan society by the average US citizen? It does not have to be directly tied to sustainability.

We leave today for Jinja where we spend our last couple of days in Uganda. There may be a smaller number of updates, I think that last year we realized the internet was not as easily accessible there. However, that might have changed , we will see. Students have promised to record their thoughts and post after returning home late this week, so keep checking back, even after we have returned!


  1. Right away, I noticed the energy conservation going on in Uganda. (How could you not notice with the dimness of the lights at night.)
    However, what just floors me is the garbage system in Uganda. In both Kampala and the villages, garbage is simply thrown on the ground. This may be a candy wrapper, a water bottle, a paper plate, garbage bags, everything. It builds up in piles along the roads and walkers have no choice but to trudge through it. There is no 'city garbage' company like in the US. There are a couple of private garbage collectors, but the two times I saw trucks, they were flatbeds piled high with leaves. (Garbage was flying off the back too...) The main system of disposal involves starting a small fire along the road. It smolders until a pile of ashes and leftover plastic remains.
    In such a beautiful city and country, I am saddened to see it this way. With all of the people living on the street and in town, the filth and smell make me concerned and I hope that efforts go into improving this.

  2. I agree with Bethany. It seems like a lot of the smells and littering could be solved easily with public toilets (port-a-potties) and dumpsters or trash cans more accessible.

    I wanted to touch on what Professor Root talked about how we could learn from the Ugandans and how we could apply them to our lives back in the US. Frankly, I feel like Americans waste a lot of food, myself included. I came here and still waste food, but look around and see the Ugandans piling up their plates with food and not wasting a single vegetable. I have always heard people use comments like "don't you know there is a starving person in Africa that would die for those plate scraps?" I never thought I would have an experience where I would witness "those starving Africans" devouring every little bit of food on their plates. Also, when we went to Fang Fang, we had a lot of unwanted food at the end. So what does the average American do? Gets the rest in a doggy bag. Instead of giving the food to someone sitting on the curb, we took the food home and it sat in the fridge in our room for two days until we had to throw it out because we were leaving the place. Little things like that are something that I will definitely think twice about. I am heading to Chicago when I get back, and if I go to a restaurant and there is uneaten food, I think I will get it in a doggy bag and then hand it out to one of the many homeless people lining the streets of downtown Chicago. It is not something I have considered before this trip, but now it seems perfectly simple, easy, and morally correct. Overall, I am going to try to be less wasteful with something that I easily take for granted--food. In the grand scheme of things, it is not much, but this experience has taught me that those little things can mean the world to someone else.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This whole experience makes me realize a lot of things that I take for granted, especially having been in the US for a few days after the trip in Uganda. How water is easily available here is definitely something I take for granted. There are many environmental conditions in Uganda that should be improved on. One huge problem as Juliann and Franklin already mentioned was the trash situation in Uganda. It was horrible and almost impossible to find a trash can anywhere.

    I think that there are many lessons that the average US citizen can learn from Ugandans and from Uganda. One thing that sticks out to me and I always noticed was their hospitality. Everyone was so friendly and generous to our presence. It was always very welcoming. This hospitality definitely enabled our learning and allowed us to learn cultural values that Ugandans find important. I think that all Americans can learn to be a little more hospitable!