What can fifteen enthusiastic volunteers armed with garbage bags do to celebrate Earth Day' Not much, as members of the Tsukuba Walking and Mountaineering Club (TWMC) found out on April 18.
Over the past year, the TWMC has enjoyed many trips to various places in Japan ranging from easy day trips to 4 day excursions in the mountains. In return for all the pleasure that we have had hiking around Japan, the TWMC decided to sponsor a clean-up effort in our own backyard; Tsukuba-san. To maximize effectiveness, volunteers were enlisted from the club and from the general community. Announcements were made, including on TAIRA, a local e-mail list devoted to the concerns of foreigners living in the Tsukuba area. One non-TWMC volunteer was successfully recruited. Apparently, the other TAIRites were occupied with the more worthwhile effort of searching foreign dictionaries for long words.
On the morning of April 18, some of the volunteers met in Tsukuba and drove to the rendezvous point close to the Tsukuba shrine, where they were joined by others who had bicycled. After a representative from the Tsukuba City Office took photographs, the larger group then divided into 4 smaller groups, grabbed some garbage bags and headed off to assigned areas to pick up litter.
Three hours of trash collecting later, some of it in the rain, the group rejoined. As about 80 bags of garbage were sorted into burnable and non-burnable, the group recounted stories of adventure and weird things found on the mountain. Perhaps the most common sentiment, however, was how little territory had actually been covered. Fifteen enthusiastic volunteers; a small mountain; the expectation had been that a lot was going to be accomplished; a lot of ground was going to be covered. But, the common experience was that, once we stepped off the path into the bushes, there was so much to be picked up, that only a small area could be properly cleaned.
Later, after we had washed off the grime and the disappointment, we soaked up some satisfaction in an onsen. Sure, it hadn't been much, but it had been something. Although there was a certain amount of frustration at how little had been accomplished, there were still 80 bags of garbage no longer on Tsukuba-san.
(For more information on the TWMC, check out our homepage at eve.bk.tsukuba.ac.jp/twmc/ or join us at our weekly meeting in Hot Stuff Wednesdays at 8:30pm).
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