Deepest winter

Dollymount Xmas 2012Around the year 2010 in human time some aliens landed at a French university and started to send reports back to their home planet about the life forms, behavior and cultural practices that they encountered among the earthlings in that ecosystem.  Some years later a delayed mission from the same planet of extra-terrestrials, Gaia Universitas, landed at another university ‘near Dublin’[i] where the observers started to send back reports to the mother planet. Their brief was to observe from a distance rather than participating directly, with the result that their reports tend to be neutral accounts of bafflement, frequently concluding with questions.  These logs make for interesting reading.

Stardate 10102017.17.46.  Collection time in the Arts Building for the recycling bins which are green (for recyclable waste) and red (for landfill).  Some brown bins have also been noted.  When the waste company arrives in the evenings and the buildings are empty and quiet, all of the bins, colored green, red and brown, are merged into one big black bag by the waste company employed by the university as part of its green campus initiative.  Human hours of separation of waste, as practiced by young and old earthlings, are as nought.  The one bag is transferred to a single lorry (possibly for landfill in a site nearby).  The extra-terrestrials note in their log that this may have occurred on only a few occasions, as there is not sufficient data from which to draw any general conclusions.  Pending further investigation, some hypotheses are advanced by the observers :

  • The employees of the waste company are paid so little that it is easier for them to throw all of the sorted rubbish into one bag. Quality control at their company does not check, therefore there is no incentive to maintain separation of categories of waste.
  • Some employees of the university live in apartments where there is no separation of waste into green, red or brown bins. These employees travel out from the city center of Dublin with their own domestic waste presorted into categories which they then  carefully deposit into the three types of bin dotted around the ‘green campus’.  All of this thoughtful unpaid labor provides meditative calm for those concerned.
  • The university has devoted a certain amount of its budget to the ‘green waste initiative’, along with small electric vehicles, big-belly compactor solar powered bins and other ingenious inventions, in order to appear progressive in paper and online promotional material. It is not important if a fastidious extra-terrestrial records that what is actually happening on (or in) the ground is very different from what is stated to be taking place.  It is just as (or perhaps more) important for recycling to be seen to be done as it is for it to actually be done.
  • The extra-terrestrials have observed that this guiding principle ‘that things should be seen to be done’ rather than the idea that they ‘should be actually done’ pertains to many areas of university life.
  • Earthlings have their own names for expressing this idea. They talk about ‘optics’ or ‘window-dressing’.  Some mention a village called ‘Potemkin’.  As yet, the extra-terrestrial visitors have not located the village in question.  Something to do with earth history many decades before, perhaps on another part of earth…  Report to be continued.

[i] The university ‘near Dublin’ was compelled to describe itself in this way in order to attract an international range of participants to a conference in 2018 commemorating the anniversary of the birth of a certain ‘Karl’.

‘Per ambages’ is an adverbial expression used in law to mean ‘indirectly’ or ‘evasively’.




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