Goodbye Brisbane, Hello Mumbai

It’s exactly 11 days until Christmas and I’m going to be spending the run-up to the most consumerist time of year in one of the poorest places on earth, Dharavi Slum, Mumbai

@_sarahwilson_  tweeted earlier this week “of the $50 billion we will spend on gifts in Australia this Christmas $700 million will be in landfill by February 2013”.

Right now, in Australia, 63% of our population are overweight or obese, 80% of all trips are made by private car (and 80% of seats in those moving cars are empty), we have the highest personal and credit card debt in the world, accounting to AUD$60,000 per person and alarmingly 40% of our household waste is food.

I hate waste. I shop around the corner at the ‘Sourced Grocer’. Admittedly, I pay more but I buy less and waste nothing because I buy what is needed, loose not packaged, and only when its really needed. My fridge and freezer are full of Tupperware containers of soups and curries made from leftover veggies and this week I have been madly stewing fruit. Yesterday my colleagues breakfasted on one of my concoctions of fruit compote, and they loved it!

In stark contrast to Australia, around 60% of the citizens of Mumbai, live in slums. In Dharavi, a place full of industry and community, with a population of at least a million, nothing is considered garbage and absolutely nothing is wasted, moreover the main industry is re-use and recycling.

As I sit here at Brisbane airport I have to confess I’m feeling a little bit apprehensive. I’ve traveled to some pretty impoverished places in Africa and South America and I was part of a marine conservation expedition to Honduras, which involved surviving without electricity and running water for an extended period of time, but I’ve never been to India.  When my Guggenheim colleague Jeremy touched down in Mumbai two weeks ago from Sydney he text me just one word “overwhelmed’. Add to that, that I’ve only ever been a transport planner in the developed world, so being part of a project to vision the heart of Mumbai and to discuss mediating public and private transport, in a city of extreme poverty, is going to be amazing yet challenging.

So, for the next week, whilst a fair proportion of the world are busy Christmas shopping, I am going to be tweeting and blogging from Dharavi, and from projects coordinated by the BMW Guggenheim Lab, in a little series I’m calling ‘Live! from Mumbai’

So please stay tuned. I think it’s going to be an experience, and quite an adventure!


BTW My blogs are always genuine and completely honest. My writing is never edited (hence the occasional spelling mistake!) and I am never told what to say by PR people.