Time to take a stand

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One of our biggest pet peeves, littering, was recently highlighted by the President of the Environment Awareness Group (EAG), Tahambay Smith. He is calling on the authorities to move away from just lip service and begin enforcing anti-litter laws. Mr Smith echoes our calls for action by the authorities and we hope that his request will be met with a better response than ours.
Littering is one of the most preventable social ills that is present in our country. Sure we can blame the government for not cleaning up the place but this is not a government issue.  Government cannot be blamed for the littering. That responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the people doing the littering. The government is an easy target for people’s frustrations but the concept of blaming the government for people’s bad habits is absurd and we, as a society, need to change our ways before we can blame government.
Just one look at the recent pictures in the paper and you will see clear evidence that there are a good number of people in our communities that lack civic pride.  They could care less that their surroundings are filthy and that their nasty habits infringe on other people’s rights.
The cost of cleaning up after littering must be a massive cost to the government. There is just so much of it. If you have ever driven down a dirt road, or even a remote road with little traffic, you will see tons of garbage – literally! Can we really demand that the government patrol every road, twenty-four hours per day?  And can we expect that the government set aside scarce resources to fix an unnecessary problem that is entirely in our hands to fix?
As an environmentalist, Mr Smith is clearly frustrated; as we are! He said, “We need to have the police enforce the laws on the books so where littering is a problem, they deal with it.” That is an easy argument to agree with but the reality is that the problem is so wide- spread that the limited ability to enforce the laws will make a very small difference. That is not to say that we should not enforce the existing anti-litter laws, and maybe even strengthen them with stiffer penalties, but there are so many areas that require the focus of law enforcement that littering drops to the bottom.
In the past, we have made many suggestions – from voluntary litter wardens with the authority to cite persons for littering to mandatory forfeiture of vehicles that illegally dump rubbish – but none have been considered (that we know of). Today, the only solution that seems to stand a chance is peer pressure.
Rather than wait for our overburdened government to pick up behind the low-life litterers, we need to confront them and let them know that that type of despicable behaviour is not wanted and will not be tolerated.  With the ubiquitous cell phone camera providing a near omni-presence in our society, we need to capture and shame these individuals into compliance. Don’t think that we are advocating any type of anti-litter vigilantism because we do not want to create any physical confrontation over a piece of litter.  Rather, when you see someone littering your bit of paradise, snap a photo and share.  Slowly, the littering will decrease.
It is extremely unfortunate that it has come to this point. The rampant littering demonstrates that the civic-pride in our society continues to slip. Instead of people walking a few feet to a rubbish bin, or keeping their trash in their cars until they reach their destination, their don’t care, lazy attitude tells them to dump it wherever they feel. How many times have you driven behind a car where trash is indiscriminately tossed through the window? And how many times have you seen a truck laden with trash heading down a dirt road and feel it in your gut that they are going to litter? These vehicles are operated by people who do not care about Antigua and they do not care about you.
The sad part is that it is being taught to the next generation. Littering has become so rampant in our society that many parents now teach their kids the bad habit without seemingly a single thought about the circumstances. “Wha yuh carrying dat for?  Drop it right dey!” is often heard being barked to kids as parents berate them for “holding on to garbage”. There is no encouragement to hold on to the trash until the child reaches a receptacle.
The EAG president stated that he believes that it is now time to take a stand on the issue of littering.  We absolutely agree. Paradise cannot be paradise if litter mars the landscape.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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