Monday, May 5, 2014

There is No Away

One of the most certain indicators of the arrival of Spring in My Minnesota is the appearance of florescent-vested crews picking up trash from roadsides. You have, no doubt, see numerous times signs that say "This highway adopted by (fill in local business, group, school, family etc.)." I'm all for, and appreciative of, the work they do picking up after some of the world's slobs. (I know it's not Minnesota Nice to call people names, but I'm from back East where we call them like we see them and a slob is a slob.) I wonder, though, if that kind of picking up after others (you know, the way your mother had to do for you when you were an irresponsible, self centered, unsocialized child) isn't just a form of enabling behavior. If there were no pick up, clean up crews, and the trash and litter just piled up along roadsides from year to year, would enough of us eventually be sufficiently offended to make littering a capital offense, or, at least, life without parole, time to be spent picking up after others.

Tire and wheel, soda can litter
Tire and wheel, soda can litter (photo center)     © harrington

I've written previously, I think, about the fact that our property backs up to 20,000+ acres of Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area. The yellow sign marks the boundary between the WMA and "The Property." The trash you see in the photo, along the border, is several hundred yards from the nearest road, even further from the nearest parking area. It didn't just blow in. Some slob left it there! I have to wonder about the capabilities of someone who finds an empty aluminum can too heavy to pack out. The tire and wheel are beyond my comprehension. In case any of you are thinking that I'm getting too upset about something someone just threw away, I'd like to point out: There is No Away! Last week, when I was walking along a trail at a nearby Scientific and Natural Area [SNA], surrounded by private property, I noticed several plastic jugs and other litter. Whether it came from nearby homeowners or other hikers, I don't care. Trash belongs in a reuse or recycling bin, sometimes in a hazardous waste landfill, but not in natural settings. The trash at the SNA started the daughter person's fiancee and I talking about "misplaced discards." We're planning to start photo documentation (see above and below)  of those discards and then we'll try to bag it up and haul it out when we're out hiking natural areas. This should be easy with things like the plastic bag (below) that may well have blown in from the road, where it didn't belong in the first place.

sandwich bag litter
sandwich bag litter           © harrington

Do you remember The Crying Indian, and that he was crying about litter or his role in alleged corporate greenwash or both? To the roster of public education, community organizing and public/private partnerships to "keep America beautiful" I'd like to add one more strategy: public shaming. That's what "There is No Away" hopes to start with photo documentation of the results of ordinary people behaving like corporate slobs. If corporations are persons, shouldn't they be able to feel shame?

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