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Strasbourg, May 2016

Kids with ideas for a cleaner world (w/ Bellastock)

Hand in hand with Bellastock and the Socio-Cultural Centre of Neuhof (SCC), Apollonia organized a weeklong workshop designed to heighten public awareness of waste disposal. The chief aim, namely to gather the impressions of the local inhabitants in the Neuhof suburb of Strasbourg, was undertaken by ten civic services: three from Neuhof itself, seven from Apollonia as well as employees from both and a member of Bellastock. Two workshops were set up on the Wednesday and the Thursday, first for the younger generation and then for the older population.
In a joyful and good-humoured atmosphere, 6 to 8 year-olds from the SCC did drawings: they imagined monsters, witches and fairies to respond to the question: why all this rubbish in our living space? Where does it all come from? How? The main aim was to push their thinking and imagination to the frontiers of the real world. By creating myths and stories around waste, they were able to anticipate solutions, workable or otherwise. Five groups of five children, flanked by volunteers from Apollonia and the SCC, were able to let their imagination roam freely. But a first difficulty soon arose: the children were very down to earth; they had a very tough relationship with reality from which they had difficulty in escaping. Nevertheless, some of the stories told brought out a few interesting ideas. Three main notions regarding waste appeared. First, the idea of self-rejection or rejecting other people that was perceptible in the stories told; for example where comic book characters hurled bangers into the dwellings of vampires to make them flee. Then came the question of responsibility. In many stories, there was a princess who didn’t listen to her parents and pretended not to see the waste bin for disposing of her rubbish. Lastly came drawings of a truly violent nature with opposition between two types of inhabitants, for example a princess attacked by a robot.
Three main approaches appeared from the various solutions proposed by the children. Some devices, like post boards indicating Waste disposal prohibited¬Ě, or surveillance cameras, got us worried. Some went even further by proposing severe punishment, warnings, fines and even prison sentences. Others, however, proposed incentives rather than repression or even rewards for frequent disposal users. Lastly, others put forward ideas for eliminating the problem by burying waste or asking others to look after upkeep; these could be men, women or even robots and animals etc. Some, more radical still, had the idea of blocking windows through which waste is thrown out. This workshop revealed that the children’s solutions aimed principally at hiding the problem and its origin. There was little or no question of recycling. It would be interesting to organize training in what occurs after waste collection to explain and help understand what actually happens to waste thrown into the bin. In the fresh mornings, surrounded by the smell of chocolate cakes and coffee, we were able for a short while to discuss the SCC’s planning project with the older inhabitants of the suburb in the second workshop. In the afternoon there was a very full exchange where the local inhabitants and those nearby the SCC building could expose their views and wishes.
Besides several ideas put forward, many worries and disappointments were voiced. For example there was concern for the upkeep of the future garden and fear that it could be vandalized. It is true that in the past there was a Club for Living Better Together and awareness-raising workshops with teaching kits and snakes and ladders games, but all that has disappeared with the slow downward run of the district. In addition the inhabitants have noted a real problem with the metal waste-bins which they feel are ill-adapted for convenient use and insufficient in number in public areas. Nevertheless, the workshop brought to the fore a wealth of ideas, wishes and needs for the district. Many wanted to retrieve the image of a green district that Neuhof had in the past. They dreamt of open spaces where they could rest and enjoy nature and the sun while listening to the joyful laughter of the children on their playground. They imagined an educational garden with various activities like learning the cycle of the seasons, sensing natural scents and textures, cooking workshops, etc. But, first and foremost, they urgently want to get their hands into the earth and make this project of theirs a reality.