Heidi Trautmann

Heidi Trautmann Column 8 - Let’s talk about culture and environment

Another important column of culture is environmental awareness. When did we in Western Europe start to have it? It is not too long ago as I can still remember that in the 60s and 70s it was quite normal to empty one’s ashtray at any traffic light on your way; or a change of oil of your car was done when you took your girlfriend out into the countryside, near a cornfield or near a forest clearing where you had spread the blanket for a Sunday picnic. When I went mushrooming or berry picking as a child, how often would I find old furniture or machines dumped right in the middle of the romantic scenery of a forest; lakes were the most welcome dumping places for such old stuff; farming waste water was led into lakes so that swimming became a health risk but did you really care or know? How often in the 70s have I cleaned the roadside ditch in front of our garden from bottles thrown out of cars. Does it ring a bell? We should keep this in mind when we drive along our Cypriot roads and find them littered. People here just go through the same dilemma we went through when wealth came over us, when our economy developed and everybody had to have the newest models of whatever. With wealth we have rubbish problems coming, with technical development environmental problems grow; we have the pollution of the air: how many airplanes are in the air, start and land per minute worldwide; how many cars are on the roads per family, per state! I remember one specific talk with my dentist’s assistant many years ago, asking her why they would still use plastic pinafores instead of paper and we did a calculation of pinafores used within a month, a year, in each dental office in a place like my hometown Rosenheim. We assumed about 30 dental offices with about 20 patients a day, that would make 600 plastic pinafores a day in one middle sized town; multiplied per days of the months, a year, and so on, we came to an unbelievable figure of indestructible pinafores, and multiplied by the number of cities, and so on….The assistant was shocked, she has never ever seen it that way; next time I came for consultation, they had recycled paper pinafores. How did we in the Western countries overcome the problem? By heavy fines, by strict regulations, and NOT by common sense, I dare to say. Today, after so many years, environmental awareness has become the rule in our Western countries. But alas, we have other big problems such as the atomic waste, or just in general the awareness of interrelations between industrial and technical growth and the remaining resources of the earth and due to the growing population around the world and the increasing demand for ever higher technologies. But we must not go that far, let us be concerned about plastic: It was invented in the middle of last century. I still remember the first nylon stockings, the first underwear for men and women and in no time plastic was the wonder product in our private households, replacing metal and wood in industrial productions, right into the world of our children, their playgrounds, their rooms. Indestructible! Today these indestructible assets cover our coasts, are swept into the oceans where at certain places they turn round and round and round. Scientists call it the Great Pacific Garbage Patch characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific. Humanity started with …Stone Age, Iron and Bronce Ages…and our times will one day be remembered as the Plastic Age. It is not a question of picking plastic debris up it is a question of not using it, or at least to reuse it and not let the wind take care of the problem and blow it out of our sight. Let’s talk about culture and health I just finished reading a book about the times of the Plague, the Black Death, which was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. It is estimated to have killed 30-60 percent of Europe’s population in the 14th century. You may ask now what it has got to do with us today? Just like hundreds of years ago pandemics have one thing in common: it travels; it is spread by travelers. When one day you moan about headache and fever on this lovely island of pure air you have somehow been in touch with someone who had just come from abroad or you have caught the disease in the airplane that brought you back here, the viruses spread over the air condition system. Pandemics develop in countries with extremely poor conditions of life, lack of proper medical protection, hygiene and are spread by travelling people, and…even in our modern times in the middle of Europe …caused by criminal or profit orientated negligence in food producing and animal farming companies of which we have had many proof in the last years. Our health services worldwide and also in Cyprus are constantly on alert and try to keep control of the spreading of such pandemics. There are regular health checks in schools and the medical service offered is quite satisfactory. Only 100 years ago in Cyprus the Malaria pandemic was eradicated by Cypriot Chief Health Inspector Mehmet Aziz in cooperation with a British scientist Sir Ronald Ross. Records tell the story; he was the father of the famous Chief Matron Türkan Aziz who is still alive at the age of over 90 years. She had written the book ‘Death of friendship’. Health is one of the vital columns of society, it represents a cultural asset, and to pronounce it more scientifically: Health is the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living being. A healthy mind in a healthy body, I say. Health also depends on the individual care of one’s own and only life; this is nothing your government is responsible for; health is an individual state of mind, body and spirit, depending on your upbringing, your genes and the way you feed your body, your brain and your spirit. You want to be healthy and happy? Try to avoid the consumption of all system weakening food and drinks; speak out when something is troubling you; don’t brood over things, try to sing and dance to the music in your kitchen while you are cooking, while you are doing any work around the house; read good books, watch good films; or in short: Look on the bright side of life! I know it is not easy when your back is hurting you, or your sweetheart has run away with someone else and the advice can only be a guide for normal days. The other day I met some elderly tourists on the way up the hills in the heat of a Cypriot summer day without a T-Shirt or hat on, red in the face; or I encountered joggers on roads with heavy traffic inhaling the exhaust fumes; We cannot live a healthy life just for ourselves, build a wall around us and forget about the rest. As long as my property is clean, my car, then I am doing enough for my health. Wrong! People throwing rubbish out of the window, into the road ditches, down the ravines, will attract vermin. Some desolated places have become dumping places; old paint, oils and other poisonous stuff trickle into the soil; old batteries etc. The word ‘health’ has the ring of cleanliness, positivity, openness and responsibility, a term we might also use for areas of activity like politics, economics and trade, organizations responsible for environment and peace.

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