You gotta get on my level before we get things started. Roughly this time last year I wrote one of my shortest Shame Days [feature to reappear in good time, never fear] ever, the gist of it being that tossing your cigarette butts on the ground is unconscionable. Those who perpetrate the act themselves stick to the defence that “doing otherwise is inconvenient” and if you don’t think that’s the pettiest, shallowest, most irresponsible front then you should probably stop reading this now.
No, I don’t have patience for any of that, or the myriad of other excuses that smokers tend to put up-
I’m going to broaden my scope a little bit, though, since clearly cigarette butts are only one small part of the larger issue. Not too long ago I was walking up to the guest house where I’m currently living and all across the sidewalk were bits of garbage being blown around. Granted, it was fairly late in the evening, but I know for a fact there were other pedestrians around. Now I can’t speak for all or any of them, but I want to posit that I was the only person that night who stopped to pick up a number of bits of trash and put them in the nearby receptacle.
How near, you ask? Literally three to four feet away. There was another one a few sidewalk slabs ahead.
The question I asked myself then, and that I ask you now, is how are we supposed to change things for the better? Clearly convenience isn’t the issue. Let’s even say that this trash was littered across the street and was blown across by the wind. Why was I [ostensibly] the only person to stop and do something about it? How much responsibility to we have when it comes to our environment and the actions of others? Does no one remember what Captain Planet taught us?
Let’s follow up on that middle point, our responsibility as conscientious individuals who generally care about the space we inhabit. Sometime last month I passed a young man who unscrewed a bottle cap, peeled off the little foil seal, dropped it, and kept on walking. I was going the opposite direction and, upon passing him, picked it up and put it in my pocket to dispose of later. What should I have done?
Most of us don’t live in Singapore, so we’re not only used to seeing garbage on the ground but also seeing people place it there. When was the last time any of you actually said something to that person? I’m obviously pretty vocal about it here on the internet, but I know for a fact I haven’t even muttered an “excuse me” when actually faced with it in real life.
I mentioned a particular South East Asian country up above, with its stricter laws regarding the “pettier crimes” and how that appears to have severely curbed littering overall. The thing is, I’m not sure that would work even if North American governments had the funds and manpower to ensure they were properly enforced. The obvious follow-up to that suggestion, I think, is education-
If teach kids at a very young age to care about their environment then that should work, right? Let’s instill the youngsters with good values and that should result in good and moral adults. I’m speaking as someone who didn’t attend a public school until the 7th and 8th Grade, but I’m pretty sure that sort of thing already is, and has been, going on. At the very least kids have been inundated with literature that preaches this very message.
Which leaves us again at a dead end. Sort of. We can scroll up to right after the Captain Planet gif, where I asked what to do when witnessing someone polluting your [and presumably their] habitat. Notice how I moved on rather quickly to other solutions, ones that would presumably not require my active participation . . .
By which I mean to say that maybe, at least right now, this falls to us. Yes, we can ensure that our kids aren’t tossing soda cans and candy wrappers on the ground [eesh, cut down on their sugar intake, maybe?], but we can also affect others. It won’t be enjoyable or comfortable, but as Gordon likes to state change never really is. We can petition our local governments to add more trashcan and ashtrays but that will not cause people to care.
I’m not saying that we can magically transform others into people who are more considerate to their environment and others, but we can certainly try. It’s either that or find the rings of earth, wind, fire, water, and heart and hope the green-haired blue-skinned guy can work it out.