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Each of us needs to think carefully about our actions because “on mass” we cause the outcome.
World Rivers Day is on September 29, 2012. Some of my friends from 350.org and the Thompson Environmental Network want to meet down at the Thompson River for a garbage clean-up day. I really wanted to go pick plastic bags and garbage out of the river but I have to work on Saturdays. I still had the urge to help. It got me thinking about how the garbage gets into the river in the first place.
I realized I didn’t need to go anywhere. Every spring after the snow has melted, I have done a spring cleaning in the Ironmask Industrial Park. I started the clean-up because I got tired of looking at all the garbage in the ditches as I walked up to the mail boxes. It just seemed natural to me to pick-up the garbage and dispose of it. In my neighborhood I do two roads: Bowers Place and Roper Place. I have never timed myself but the spring cleaning takes about 2-4 hours every year.
I have decided to do a fall cleaning to support World Rivers Day. During heavy rainstorms I have watched the rains blast down the hills and fill the ditches in minutes. This water can be full of plastic bags and garbage. All this garbage will make its way to the river at some point. I don’t have to go anywhere to help the rivers of the world. I just have to clean the ditch in front of my home. Of course, people could stop throwing garbage into the ditch but I don’t have any control over other people’s behavior. Nor do I want laws that will penalize people for littering either. There’s an old bureaucrat’s saying: “You can’t regulate good sense.”
I have never asked anyone for permission to clean the garbage off city property. I just go out there and do it. In five years, no one has asked me what I am doing. It’s like being invisible. If you have the time, I would like to invite you to clean-up the rivers of the world with me, by cleaning up a ditch or ravine near your home. I know we are all very busy so take a week to clean a ditch or ravine in your neighborhood. Don’t kill yourself. Do one or two hours of clean-up between September 15-29, 2012.
If you would like to make your garbage picking activities into a social event join The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup between September 15-23, 2012. There are groups gathering everywhere so you should easily be able to find a group near your home. What gets me cranky is these events have become marketing opportunities for big government, NGOs and their buddies in industry. I find myself sickened by the self-congratulations that can go on during these events.
What really needs to happen is people need to stop littering. But even before stopping littering, people need to stop buying one-use disposable items. I can’t tell you how many plastic, styrofoam and paper cups I have found that were used for one hot drink. Or the number of one-use plastic water bottles and one-use aluminum cans. Plastic bags are everywhere and I don’t think the so called bio-degradable bags are any improvement because they break into small pieces and cause more contamination. The bag may disappear and solve the garbage problem but the degraded tiny pieces just move into the soil and later our water sources. One-use packaging for fast-food-outlets can be found where people eat their breakfast or lunch in their cars. I picked up hundreds of cigarette butts. Someone even dumped the contents of their ashtray into some bushes. With all the scorch marks, we were lucky we didn’t have a fire. I learn a lot about what goes on in my neighborhood by picking garbage.
Here are six small changes that would stop the garbage from getting into the ditches in my neighborhood and avoid the garbage making its way into the river:
1. Do not buy one-use items ever. Never let these items into your household. Recycling is an overrated activity which promotes wasteful practices. The dark side of recycling is people feel “good” about “recycling” one-use items. People need to stop buying these one-use items in the first place. A full recycling box in front of your home should fill you with shame.
2. Reducing and reusing is more important than recycling. Use a garbage can if you have to throw something out, but reduce and reuse first, if possible.
3. Get a stainless steel thermos for hot and cold drinks. Don’t use plastic drinking containers because synthetic estrogen will get into your body. Synthetic estrogen gives men “man boobs” and makes women cranky. Those are the “nice” symptoms.
4. Make your own lunch at home and use a reusable lunch kit made of stainless steel or glass. You will save money and be better nourished. Stop using fast-food outlets. These businesses generate massive amounts of garbage.
5. Buy or make reusable shopping bags. Save your plastic bags and bring them back to the store for reuse.
6. If you smoke, roll your own. You will save money. Find a quality organic tobacco and safe rolling papers. Filters don’t help protect your health very much but avoiding the additives in pre-rolled cigarettes might. Be careful about your disposal practices.