2009 Fellow: Ted Mathys (Chintan)
Ted Mathys is currently pursuing a master’s degree in international environmental policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Carleton College. His research focuses on the social dynamics of achieving environmental sustainability in the context of globalization. This summer he will be supporting the efforts of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group in Delhi, India.

Chintan is an exceptional environmental justice organization that advocates for the environmental and social rights of Delhi’s waste picker communities. In Delhi, informal waste collection, separation, and recycling employs close to 1% of the total population of the city (which corresponds to roughly 140,000 people). Waste pickers, itinerant buyers, and junk dealers recycle an astounding 90% of Delhi’s municipal solid waste, providing a crucial service that often goes unrecognized and uncompensated. Chintan’s diverse campaigns advocate for a safe, dignified, and healthy existence for waste picker communities and empower citizens to be agents of change.

Ted will build upon the media advocacy work begun by last year’s Peace Fellows with Chintan, Paul Colombini and Mackenzie Berg. In addition, he will work with Chintan on developing a campaign for the incorporation of social justice principles into a proposed municipal waste-to-energy project. With an energy crunch across India and increasing global zeal for “clean” energy schemes, the city of Delhi has proposed an incinerator system that would use landfill methane and separated waste as fuel to produce electricity. The project would qualify for carbon reduction credits under the Kyoto Protocol and thus ensure a revenue stream for the government and private actors involved. However, by unjustly fencing off the waste and excluding waste pickers from the common resource that is Delhi’s recyclables, it would also translate into job loss for many waste pickers and expose those who remain to increasingly hazardous working conditions among the toxic incinerator ash.

In short, like many environmental issues in the contemporary era, trash has gone global. Chintan is engaged in a vital effort to redirect the focus to the local, toward those whose daily livelihoods depend on it.
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