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Tension: Squashing the litterbug

Frank Yew (S.L.A.T.F.A.T.F.) | Interrobang | Opinion | April 8th, 2013

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
It seemed to me, upon embarking on this article, that the populace at large would recognize littering as a global issue. An Internet search for littering and the practices therein left me scratching my head. What do you suppose was the number one page that appeared for this query? One would imagine it would link to something like the Swedish symposium on human behavior relational committee, or something Swedish like that. Or the American coalition of custodial enforcement — you know those Americans and their coalitions. But no, what I got was a page from the Prince Edward Island parks association on littering in the park. This may denote the turning of a global eye on littering. Well, it is what it is, so let us use the P.E.I. parks association model of litter control as the basis for this article - here are four reasons why people litter:

1. They don't realize they are littering
This ranges from the cigarette butt flicker to the gum sticker. A carelessly tossed cigarette butt may cause a forest fire or be picked up by many of our diverse animals in the park: raccoons, squirrels, birds, street bums and young teenagers that hoard discarded butts and smoke them in a flurry in desolate underground parking lots and alleyways.

Smaller animals and birds can swallow discarded gum, clogging their digestive systems causing death. Have you ever brailed your way under a table and read the bumps of someone's gum? Ever been tempted to pop it in your mouth? Okay, secretly yes, but more often than not, nope. In fact, one may be a little irritated at feeling up your discarded wad of mucus.

2. Lack of social pressure to do the right thing
Hikers in the park may well feel at liberty to discard refuse from energy bars and bottled water. These are not natural elements in the carefully managed environment.

Just last week there were two incidents in this park that we call Fanshawe that stuck in my mind: I was right behind a guy that basketball'ed a paper ball into the air and into a bush (nice form, actually) — an arrogant, self-centred, over-confident douchebag tossing his crap onto our planet. Normally I would have said something, but this time I did not. I wonder if this makes me just as much as a douchebag as he is? Still brewing over this, I turn the corner over by the greenhouse and there was this organized pile of garbage that someone had dumped out of a parked car. I looked at this like it was the waste of some giant resource-eating animal in our park, strolling about taking a dump of garbage whenever and wherever the urge hit, and decided that that is exactly what it was.

3. People feel no sense of pride in the areas they are littering
You will find a number of designated garbage receptacles placed around the park. Please use these animal-proof bins to dispose of your garbage. Refuse left behind attracts animals, insects and those attractive skinny politically correct people who collect things in stolen shopping carts from that mall up the street. It is not advisable — it seems, to dispose of your left over Burger King meal deal by tossing it out of your car window, even if you are feeding the birds.

4. Laziness and maliciousness
According to the Environmental Education Program for the Post Endowment Fund of Prague Czech Republic, over 50 per cent of littering occurs within five meters of a garbage can! This was the second most popular page after the PEI parks association.

It is a federal offence to dump on public parkland. Penalties for dumping range from maximum fines of $10,000 to jail terms. It may be difficult to stick the paperboy in jail after dumping the entire edition of the Sunday newspaper into a water culvert, or backup-pickup-truck-guy dumping into a field. Deliberate littering can also be a subtle thing: like those who wedge garbage into crevices and seat gaps so it will not be seen.

From a gentle stroll or relaxing picnic to a long-distance walk or heart-pumping adventure, the park provides every opportunity for enjoyment, relaxation and trees to stuff your garbage into.

My TakeSince the 1950s, our national compulsion with consumerism has increased in proportion to the decline of our national happiness (see The Story of Stuff). We live in a fastpaced, throw-away society. It really seems to be a matter of pride and laziness. If they won't keep it clean, why should I? Why should I say anything to someone who litters, or pick up another person's trash, or throw out my popcorn box after the movie, or blow my nose and stick it to the back of your head...

This park belongs to us all; please leave your campsite clean and tidy before departing.
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