EDITORIAL: The only cure for litter is you

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There are some things that we feel particularly passionate about. Littering and illegal dumping are two of them.  Our passion probably stems from our frustration because this is a situation that is entirely in our hands to remedy and so easy to do. All that is necessary is for people not to do it.  Don’t litter and don’t dump waste in areas that are not designated for dumping.   How simple is that? Most remedies require that you do something but in these cases, the requirement is that you stop doing something.
Before we go any further, we would like to commend everyone who took part in the national clean-up. No matter the grades given to the initiative, the fact is that there is less garbage strewn about our bit of paradise today than there was when it all started, and that is a good thing.  A very good thing!
It is impossible to grow our tourism product or our civic pride if the mounds of garbage also grow.  No one wants to come to visit beaches flooded with litter and country-sides displaying more discarded food containers and bottles than flowers.  And if there is one thing that we cannot blame the politicians for, it is this, even though some will try.  They are not driving around the length and breath of Antigua and Barbuda and littering the roads and beaches. They are not driving into the bush on dirt roads to illegally dump rubbish that should rightfully be in the Cook’s Landfill. No, the blame for that lies with the selfish, lazy people who cannot take the time to hold their garbage until they reach a receptacle or do not want to drive “all the way” to the dump.
The blame also lies with the people who hire others to remove the waste and then turn a blind eye. They abdicate their responsibility to make sure their garbage reaches the right destination.   If you have contracted someone to dump your garbage and they return for the next load in less time than it takes to drive to the dump, then they dumped your garbage illegally.  Ask for the Cook’s receipt so that you know that you are doing your part and those that you have contracted are doing theirs.
If you’re still one of those people who think, it’s no big deal and that the government or someone else will clean it up, think again! You know what else comes to clean up your garbage?  Rats, dogs, birds, ants, etc. We imagine that our littering is very similar to other countries around the world, so the majority of our litter is food-related.  That means, if you litter, you are feeding the burgeoning rat population in Antigua and Barbuda.  If you illegally dump, you are providing them shelter and a home. And what are rats known for?  Just the bubonic plague, which you might also know as the “Black Plague.”  Or maybe you have heard of leptospirosis, which is spread through rat urine and can result in liver and kidney damage.  And these are just the beginning of the trickle-down effects of littering. We have not even talked about animals being run over while looking for an easy snack or birds choking on plastic.   Not so harmless, is it?
We have talked about the “don’t care” attitude of our people as being a major contributor to the litter problem and it was on display mere moments after concerned people made their way around the island during the national clean-up. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so we will take a break from norms and extend this bit of writing by three thousand words.  Here are three pictures that tell the sorry tale.  The beer bottles were discovered less than three hours after Pelican Beach had been cleaned.  The crate and garbage were there by late afternoon, and the usual littering was back in full force by the next day. 
Frustration was mentioned earlier as the basis for our passion, but after seeing these pictures, maybe it is anger.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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