When I first travelled to the “third world”, besides being awed by the beauty of the land and seascapes, I was most astounded by the amount of garbage that I saw strewn down hillsides along the side of the road. Giant streaks of refuse cascaded down hills, with objects easily discernible even from the windows of my passing bus; mattresses, chairs, boxes and lumber amidst the plethora of plastic bags and cardboard. It was astounding. I saw people just throw things out the bus window as we were driving along. They’d eat the meal or snack that they had purchased or perhaps brought from home and when done, pfipp it would disappear out the window. I was gob smacked.
Tonight, as I rode my bike along my county road enjoying the perfumed, spring air, I was equally astounded at the amount of debris I discovered along the ditches and sides of the road. It’s unbelievable to me that people would drink their Tim Horton’s coffee and when done, just pitch that empty cup out the window. Absolutely unbelievable! I cannot fathom that people will walk down the street, unwrap their candy bar, or cigarette package and just let the wrapper fall to the ground, fly off into the wind as they stroll along. I want to (and have) pick up their garbage and return it to them, “oh here, you dropped something.” They look at me as if I have 3 heads. Some get very angry. Rarely are they embarrassed.
When I was 6 years old I remember having a line in a play where I was to shriek “A bug? Where’s a bug?” when someone called a friend a litterbug for dropping their candy wrapper. It was already a serious social issue, the problem of garbage. I don’t remember much about grade 1, but I do remember that play and my part in it, and the impact it made about taking care of my garbage. I would have thought that with 50+ years of education about littering that this would no longer be an issue. What has happened? Today we know even more about the state of the world and the massive problems with landfill and ocean pollution, hauling barges full of refuse and dumping it off-shore, thinking, out of sight, out of mind. Now, thanks to the internet we are able to witness the floating islands of garbage swirling around the oceans, the harm to the environment, the animals and sea life and yet we still can’t be responsible for our own paper cup, the cardboard box that our quarter-pounder was is. We cannot keep it, fold it up, take it home and dispose of it responsibly? Better to have a tidy car?
The issue with the garbage in the third world is something I cannot speak to. I saw people living on the side of a very steep hill, right in the city, simply open their front door and hurl their plastic bags through the air. Sometimes the bag would catch in a tree and there it hung forever more. The advent of the plastic bag has brought on this scourge, I would suggest. People used to use natural materials in earlier eras, baskets woven of reed, leaves or cloth, things biodegradable and reused. Perhaps it’s an old ingrained habit, going back to the caveman; eat your meat, toss the bone. But we are not back in Neanderthal days and, call me crazy but I expect people to not act that way. Often I am sorely disappointed.