Maybe litter reflects the state of the society we’re in, but I try to do what I can to thwart it.


I don’t see myself as a superior human being. Well, in some regards I do. In face, I’m downright superlative in certain realms, by golly.

But, that’s not what this is all about: my, ahem, superiority, that is.

Each morning I stroll across to the park with Max for his start-of-the-day constitutional (politer term for ‘poop’). And almost invariably I see assorted amounts of effluvia left from overnight shenanigans by the young whippersnappers who are our hope for the future. I am told that young people are more environmentally sensitive than their elders. Not so much in this case. It seems.

What I am welcomed by (depending on the day) are fast food wrappers and containers, pop cans and bottles, beer cans and bottles (depending on what sort of a night it was, but blessedly no utilized condoms, so far) and all manner of other crap.

Now, I could fret and despair over the state of humanity that is pending considering some of the youthful attitudes that manifest themselves at the park. But, instead, I fastidiously pick up the shit and deposit it in the bins that the town so graciously provides and that the litterers seem wont to ignore. What motivates people to ‘not’ pick up after themselves? I have no idea. I no longer even bother questioning it.

I read a comment by favourite writer David Sedaris the other day in which he suggested that he picks up other people’s trash mainly because it makes him feel good about himself. I think it’s the same for me. I have perhaps done some unconscionable things in my – not ‘perhaps’, I have transgressed a few times in my tawdry past – but I have honestly never littered. And it does make me feel fine to pick up after others because it makes me feel superior to them.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in The Tipping Point vis graffiti and littering as to how if it’s not addressed it then reaches a horrible point in which people no longer care and the process of disregard increases exponentially and you end up with communities that resemble rubbish tips.

I like my community and I want it to look good and look clean.

I don’t know what it says about a society when it no longer cares about what some might just see as a ‘cosmetic’ situation. But it’s more than that. It’s about respect. It’s about caring for what we have been given.

For a few decades the nation of Colombia suffered through a nightmarish rule by drug lords and its international reputation was in the toilet. Sensible people avoided the place in droves, especially since tourists were favourite kidnap targets. And then it changed. It dealt internally with the power of the cartels and tourists began coming back. The place wasn’t scary any longer.

Pride was restored and something that struck us when we were briefly in Cartagena last fall is how proud the people were of what they had and how clean the city was. A ride through the Old Town revealed not a scrap of litter, no cigarette butts, no candy wrappers, no beer cans. You could almost have eaten off the cobblestone streets.

That’s what I want my community to resemble.


6 responses to “Maybe litter reflects the state of the society we’re in, but I try to do what I can to thwart it.

  1. I just want my son to not pick up a disease from being exposed to other people’s litter, as he is wont to pick it up and dispose of it. He absolutely loves putting things into the trash, so much that he will ignore the playground equipment if he spies trash on the way. Plus, it’s just gross how people use something and chuck it on the ground. And Rude!

  2. I work on a campus and we have trash receptacles everywhere, yet young people will not take the few steps to use them! So lazy! It is like they feel the workers on campus should pick up after them. I am always tossing other peoples trash as well. But Candace, I think you need to be careful about your son picking up trash as sometimes needles are tossed in bags by drug users. I actually discovered that as well as used condoms!! The pick-up tools are much safer to use!

    • Yes, there is a myth that the young are environmentally concerned. They’re probably spoiled from having mom and dad pick up after them. I think your caveat to Candace is one to be heeded, too.

  3. I’m not sure, though, that people are any worse than they’ve ever been…

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