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Having fun while being serious with Denis the Dustcart

Published: 11 February 2021

Having fun while being serious Denis the Dustcart

In his regular feature, Denis the Dustcart talks about how his online presence has developed since he started back in 2016 and how you sometimes have to have fun while being serious.

You can follow Denis on his Facebook page to keep up with information about Recycling issues.

When I started this page, I put on a lot of ridiculous costumes and Photoshopped myself into a lot of funny situations – Maverick from Top Gun; Willy Wonka; wearing a snorkel while crashed into a swimming pool.

This was, in fact, of course, all part of a perfectly serious plan.

I have always taken waste and recycling seriously – seriously enough to understand that it’s no good being all serious all the time. As my French cousin, Les Denis, puts it: ‘Having fun in communicating a serious message doesn’t mean sacrificing one’s sincerity.’

Then came Blue Planet II, which produced a tidal surge (awful pun intended) of public awareness over the human impact of plastic waste in our oceans. Then China banned plastic scrap imports, and there were exposés on landfill sites in Malaysia and Turkey containing plastic from some UK local authorities.

We knew the plastic we sorted in our plant was dealt with responsibly, and I was able to reassure Exeter’s residents that we looked at plastic not as waste, but as something valuable to be turned into quality new products.

To illustrate just how seriously we took sorting our plastic, I posted a picture of me wearing the Hogwarts Sorting Hat.

As Greta Thunberg came to prominence and public awareness of the climate and ecological crisis evolved, I was able to communicate more fully and fluently Exeter’s ambition to help people live truly greener lives, beyond just cutting out plastic – to encourage nuanced debate, and a deeper understanding of the effect products, activities, our habits and our choices have on our world.

On International Talk like a Pirate Day I dressed myself up as a pirate to promote the three ‘aaarghs’: reduce, reuse, recycle.

If we subdue our inclination to have fun until everyone takes climate breakdown seriously, we will lose something just as vital to our ability to thrive on earth.

That sounds terribly serious, doesn’t it? Well it is.

Let’s face it: we ARE in the midst of several crises all happening at once. There’s sadness, anxiety, extreme fatigue, boredom, anger. It’s easy to despair, and I’m not suggesting it’s in any way a good idea to say to somebody experiencing difficulty, ‘Come on, cheer up!’

I’m saying it doesn’t help to imagine nothing matters until the crises we face are ‘fixed’.

Will breaking ourselves in the effort to ensure the survival of future generations result in their thriving?

One of my favourite songs is George Michael’s ‘Praying for Time’, in which he articulated so perfectly the interconnectedness of anger, love, despair and hope:

‘It’s hard to love

There’s so much to hate

Hanging on to hope

When there is no hope to speak of’

It’s easy to feel like one is losing hope. Hope is largely fostered in our ability (or in sensing our potential ability) to have fun, and sometimes it feels like there is no fun to be had – or that the fun people are having is at the expense of others and/or the planet.

Taking part in a community litter-pick or tree-planting session shows how much fun a people- and planet-positive activity can be. Those aren’t despairing activities; they are hopeful. Everyone is united by a common sense of duty and community and fun in equal measures.

Right now, of course, we are in a situation that precludes such activities and so much else that could be fun, and this is hard.

It’s hard to love when it’s so easy to hate.

But there is hope, and perhaps we can hang on to it.

This is why having a little fun where we can is so important. Fun like surrendering to the desire to talk about oneself as though one is actually a real dustcart with the ability to dress oneself up in amusing costumes and Photoshop oneself into humorous situations.

Of course, not everyone will engage with a joke-riddled post on a recycling Facebook page, but the chances are that it will reach further through its (dubious) humour than it might otherwise do – as long as the message is clear and the facts are straight. In other words, as long as we are each serious in conveying our messages, a little fun can go a long way.

Are you involved in any fun project that has a serious, supportive intention?

What other ways can you think of to have fun in the effort to promote a better, healthier earth for all to live on?

Let me know!

Denis on Facebook

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