What a great post. I remember once visiting Sudan and walking the streets with my cousin. I loved ice cream and I bought the both of us two cups full. We finished our ice cream as we walked and talked. We walked for miles, homeward bound. I never saw a dumpster in sight and my fingers were dripping with sticky ice cream. But I held on to that cup and plastic spoon, sub-consciously. I held on dearly, though the sand on the roadside was begging. Once I saw a platform to put my cup on (nearby dukkan), I obliged. To myself, I threw in the towel, even though I didn’t bring myself to throw the cup on the street. On seeing my meager actions, my cousin congratulated me. I asked why, rather sheepishly, thinking he was about to chide me. He explained that he was waiting to see what I would do with the empty cup, whether I’d toss it on the streets or not. He was relieved I didn’t throw it on the ground. So many people did that. My actions seemed to have satisfied him. They weren’t the norm in his experiences. But to myself, what I did was litter. The least I could have done was waited until we got home and thrown that plastic cup in the dust bin. But even so, my cousins are exceptional Sudanese. They’re 100% native (lived there all their lives) and yet retain distinct criticisms of the country at large, as if they never lived there (just like the author of this post). They were divorced from the status quo. They aren’t beaten down by it like so many in despair in Sudan. Truly remarkable. It amazes me talking to them. There are pockets of brilliant minds, like my cousins, all over Sudan. Isolated bubbles completely ready once the leadership changes. I’m confident of it. Whenever my dad visited Sudan, he used to enjoy evening trips to parks in Khartoum. He used to purchase soda from street vendors and enjoy the beverages. When done, he used to keep any trash and waste (plastic bags, bottles, even banana peels) on his side, put it in a plastic bag and find the nearest disposal. His half brother used to playfully tell him to just toss the bag on the ground, that there were public servants and street cleaners that would take care of the letter in the morning. His half brother (my uncle) told me this story, because he observed me wrapping up all the garbage in a plastic bag, and carrying that bag with me. He was saying “your father used to do the same thing. Just leave it. But your father would lecture me gently about social responsibility”. There you have it. My native cousins and my very educated and lived abroad father, thinking on the same lines. What it says is there is untapped potential. My latest sibling was not born in Sudan (my parents gave up that tradition). He was four as we drove home, my dad, myself, and this sibling. I must have had a candy wrapper of some sort. No sooner than finishing whatever I was munching on, this sibling chimed in “don’t throw that wrapper out the window. That’s littering!” I was stunned. My dad wasn’t. He explained this is what good schooling and public policy does when you live and are nurtured in developed countries. I learned the ‘do not litter’ lesson a bit later in my life. Malcolm Gladwell writes about the domino effects of clean streets and low crime rates in Tipping Point. Sometimes the actions of a few, combined with good policy, and education can make all the difference. Keeping a few streets clean can turn neighborhoods and towns to uphold the momentum. Things can be reversed but it takes energy and good faith. Keeping a city clean and educating denizens in that regard is one of the simplest and most basic services a municipal government can do. But ultimately, the Sudanese government is a failed State, at all levels. About Sudan not being green. Khartoum doesn’t have to be green to be beautiful. It can be clean. There are parts of America that are very non-green (the Southwest) that nevertheless are well planned and well worth living in.