It stinks

Lebanon’s garbage crisis can’t cover the political stench

Driving home to Verdun after dinner in Badaro in late July, I thought I’d somehow slipped back in time to the 1980s. I looked down at my steering wheel. I was not in a DeLorean, so it wasn’t time travel. But it sure felt like a war zone. The streetlights were out, but the roads were glowing. Thick black smoke and bright orange flames made the few people on the street look menacing. I kept looking for debris caused by the bombs, but only saw burning mountains of garbage. It was a flashback to the most terrifying experiences I’ve had in this country.

Since then, I’ve seen reminders of the civil war in all the photos of blocked roads, angry demonstrators and trash fires. Protesters are even piling rubbish in front of banks, which they accuse of actively participating in the government’s corruption. This resentment towards the private sector and the feeling that it is a detestable part of the system is eerily similar to the general sentiment on the street back in 1975. People are once again being manipulated. The banking sector that has been dodging foreign attacks since 2006 is actually helping keep this country afloat economically, storing savings for both rich and poor alike. It’s clear to me that these protesters are following marching orders given by the politicians who are the designers of this crisis. Channeling their anger at one of our few productive sectors is lunacy intended to divert people’s attention from the truth.

But why am I surprised? Since the end of the civil war, waste management has been nothing but a well designed cash cow and you can be damn sure the warlords in power have gotten their milk. Whatever solution our politicians are pretending to find today is just a creative and innovative way to re-distribute our wealth. They don’t care about designing the best waste management plan for Lebanon. They are only creative when designing ways that will make them richer.

This month we’re calling on our readers to employ Design Thinking to imagine creative and innovative solutions to Lebanon’s problems. For a change, we want a human-centered approach to addressing this country’s woes that will truly benefit the people. Our politicians are doing the exact opposite with waste management. They spoke at the end of July of ‘temporary solutions’ – a quick fix. The only real quick fix would be getting rid of them once and for all and bringing to power people who actually care about this country and its citizens.

As we drown in trash and struggle to breathe, it is clear that our political class is even better than our foes at destroying our quality of life in pursuit of more personal illicit gain. Their strategy will backfire. And it will backfire soon.

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