Soda cans. Beer cans. McDonald’s cups. Ragged T-shirt. Broken bottles. Cigarette packages. Newspapers. Banana peels. Various paper junk . . . and more. I viewed all of this on an exit off of a major state highway as I slowly crept toward a city street intersection. And I thought to myself: what mentality allows people to throw what they don’t want out of a car window as if all public spaces are beckoning junkyards?
My formative years included a serious indoctrination in respect for others and stewardship of planet earth. On family vacations we would eat a packed lunch at a rest stop or roadside picnic area, and my parents always made sure the space was completely clean before leaving . . . sometimes even picking up litter left by others. Throwing a gum wrapper out of the car window could result in a parent-imposed jail sentence. Over decades I have carried this mindset into countless wilderness places, always practicing leave-no-trace camping. It’s always been psychically painful for me to hike miles into the bush to, for instance, a pristine trout stream and find trash left by uncaring individuals.
Roadside rubbish points to problems of even greater magnitude, such as pollution of the atmosphere, the oceans, and lakes and rivers. While the former is generally the product of ignorance or apathy, the latter results from the age-old human shortcoming of greed. Profits decrease when a corporation spends time and money responsibly treating and disposing of waste . . . it’s easier and more cost-effective to simply pour poisonous byproducts into the river.
We only have one planet and taking care of it is worth the effort. Whether it’s preserving wilderness areas or keeping one’s personal spaces tickety-boo, doing such will enhance life both for oneself and for the population at large. The earth, and our sojourn upon it, is a gift . . . one that merits treatment with gratitude, respect, and passionate care.