Nicaragua’s beautiful, tropical, palm tree scattered, conch-filled Corn Islands was our first destination. We had heard stories of the staple diet being lobster but what we found was a ‘lobster factory’ on the dock from which no lobsters came and which, suspiciously, didn’t suffer the electrical blackouts that hit the rest of the island. Trees were chopped down to make lobster cages, which then sat empty and unused on the beach and lots of desperately poor fisherman, not actually fishing for lobster but fishing for something else passing through and destroying these islands: crack cocaine.
Within a few days we had been approached and offered crack and coke by half a dozen people. There was rubbish everywhere, low employment, a lack of activities for the children, with only one rundown and broken playground and lots of dangerous crackheads wandering around deserted beaches making them sinister rather than special.
There was a municipal dump, so out of control that it had seeped out and into its through road. The rubbish was generated by the population of 8-10,000. We saw no evidence of anyone recycling on Big Corn Island, so when I saw labeled bins on Little Corn, I was relieved, only to be told later that this was a show for the tourists and that the recycling was filled up onto cargo boats and dropped into the middle of the ocean.
Two islands, no jobs, loads of rubbish, it’s a no brainer really, rubbish makes money, working on dumps creates employment and a wage, recycling is beneficial to the planet ands the community. No, Small Steps doesn’t want children working on dumps, but the issue of how to deal with dumps is an important question which goes hand in hand with who should deal with dumps.
Fortunately the Municipal Dump on the island was not inhabited by children, we saw a few people dotted around and one man with a shotgun defending a tractor, but here they have hundreds of unemployed people and a dump which could be generating money and jobs through recycling.
Just because you can’t see rubbish it doesn’t mean it is being dealt with or recycled, it is just concealed and even here, off the coast of Nicaragua in an incredibly deserted area, rubbish is having a devastating effect on the landscape and agriculture but it is a tiny fraction of the problem human beings have in dealing with their refuse.