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  • Writer's pictureOverturnTheTables

World Youth Day pilgrimage

75 000 people at the Rio Olympic games opening ceremony.... 99000 people attended Coachella... Please.

World youth day opening mass 100 000 people, final mass 700 000 people. And Panama this year was one of the smallest world youth days ever. WYD Rio in 2013 had 3.5 million at the closing mass.

Conclusion - the only thing more powerful than sport and music to unite people is religion.

It was an overall amazing experience to see the Pope, meet other Catholics from around the world, listen to guest speakers and pray. But I just want to crunch some more numbers for you.

100 000 people were brought into panama as registered pilgrims. Each registered pilgrim received

- a WYD backpack (even though all of the pilgrims I was withalready had their own)

- a hat (again especially those I travelled with had a hat already)

- lanyard for information about you

- headband (material)

- wristband (plastic)

- metro card (very handy)

- sim card (again, everyone I was with had one already)

- water bottle that was refillable (but again, everyone I was with had a water bottle already, and we also had to buy bottled water to avoid sickness)

- t-shirt

- rosary beads made of olive wood

- food vouchers to fast food places... which has its own problems anyway, 3 meals a day for a week!!!

I understand that they need to promote the event, but some of the use of plastic and unnecessary items could have been avoided too reduce waste.

On the night of the vigil mass we also received a food package that was filled with plastics, canned food (which was fine, except they didn't have recycle bins) etc. We didn't eat all of the food because of the sheer quantity and lack of quality so a lot went to waste.

While there a lot of people left tents, sleeping mats, umbrellas, chairs at the vigil site so that they didn't have to carry it back home. Again most of this will have gone to waste (I'm hoping it was donated).

Before WYD we went to the Caribbean side in Portobello. This was our view.

This was quite heartbreaking. Walking the streets there was also just as much litter.

I'm not proud to have participated in an event that generated so much waste and calls itself Catholic. And I did struggle with this the whole time. But I was excited to come home and get back into my zero-waste routine and I'm inspired to keep helping others to do the same. There is so much that can be done, and in countries like Panama people don't have a lot of choice yet to be able to be as zero waste as some of us in the western world are.

I do want to highlight some positives. The panama canal is made up of a man made lake and relies heavily on the rain that occurs in panama. They have very extensive programs in place to protect the forests and all of the animals in order for the canal to still function.

Some of the traditional villages like the Embara peoples who use what is available and live off the land.

While travelling, I also did a few things

- occasionally I was able to use my zero waste kit. I packed a small bucket and some dishwashing liquid to wash my stuff

- I used said bucket and my own container of washing powder to do most of my washing

- I didn't use any of the soaps/shampoos etc available in the hotels, only what I had brought with me.

- when possible I did refill my water bottle

There were so many limitations and barriers to me living my normal lifestyle while travelling and it is unrealistic to expect to be zero waste while travelling.

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