Tag Archives: litter

Give a Hoot! And a Thanks!

17 Feb

I was the perfect age to appreciate Woodsy Owl when he was introduced in 1971. Along with Smokey the Bear, Woodsy helped reinforce my love for nature and the world around me. He also instilled a deep disdain for littering. I was taught that littering was wrong from a very young age and for my entire life it’s been perhaps my greatest pet peeve. I simply cannot stand litter. I cannot stand people littering. I cannot begin to understand and/or fathom how anyone does it.

In his book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger writes about littering as a sign of disconnectedness. He quotes Dr. Rachel Yehuda, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience of Trauma at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who says littering is “the perfect example of an everyday symbol of disunity in society.” She says, “It’s a horrible thing to see because it sort of encapsulates this idea that you’re in it alone, that there isn’t a shared ethos of trying to protect something shared. It’s the embodiment of every man for himself. It’s the opposite of the military.”

Junger goes on to add, “In this sense, littering is an exceedingly petty version of claiming a billion-dollar bank bailout or fraudulently claiming disability payments. When you throw trash on the ground, you apparently don’t see yourself as truly belonging to the world that you’re walking around in. And when you fraudulently claim money from the government, you are ultimately stealing from your friends, family, and neighbors – or somebody else’s friends, family, and neighbors. That diminishes you morally far more than it diminishes your country financially.”

When I read this, several years ago now, it was the first time I’d ever read anything that better explained my thoughts and feelings on the subject. I’ve never forgotten it.

Fast forward to this week – this morning, even. I’m taking part in the current Medical Library Association’s “MLA Reads” virtual book club. We’re reading and discussing Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s book, What the Eyes Don’t See. Dr. Mona was a keynote speaker at MLA’s annual meeting last May. She was engaging and inspiring in her talk with us, and reading her book is the perfect opportunity to spend more time being engaged and inspired. In brief, Dr. Mona is the pediatrician who led the research and the fight to bring the Flint, MI water crisis to light. It’s an excellent book. I highly recommend it.

But back to this morning’s discussion, we started with an icebreaker where we each shared a Rose (a little something positive), a Thorn (a frustration or struggle), and a Bud (something to look forward to and/or pursue). When it came my turn, I shared something that happened this week. It was about litter and trash, something I’ve thought about a lot while reading and discussing the book.

Earlier in the week, I was walking my dog through Beaver Brook Park in my neighborhood in Worcester, MA. I like to think of this park as a small gem in the city, complete with ball fields, a street hockey rink, playgrounds, and a dog park. I love to walk there in the mornings. For many years, city workers tended to the park each day, emptying the trash bins, caring for the grounds, keeping things fairly clean for a city park, but those workers retired more than a year ago now and they’ve not been replaced. Slowly, the park is falling into a state that is so disheartening. So much trash, so many examples of people unattached from any sense of our community and this particular shared space. Even as they enjoy using it.

So I took pictures. Pictures of a mattress on the ground, a recliner and end table tossed down the side alley, trash piled high in the dugouts of the off-season Little League fields. And I emailed them all, along with a note, to the mayor, my city council representative, the parks department, and the 311 complaint line. THORN

Later in the day, I received a very thoughtful reply from Councilor Etel Haxhiaj, sharing my frustrations and letting me know some of the efforts she’s backing and/or initiating around the issue. One of these is a Community Clean Up day on April 1, led by the Worcester Clean Corps. I was thrilled to hear of this and plan to be there, to share cleaning up with my community. If you happen to be local, consider joining, too. BUD

Finally, this morning as Bayer and I turned the corner to the park, we noticed straight away that the mattress, after months sitting beside the Youth Center, was GONE! We also noticed the other furniture has been removed and the dugouts cleaned up. There’s still a lot left to do, but this start to my day was one heckuva ROSE.

Along with sending my email, I also groused publicly, via social media, about the state of the park. I tagged the city. It was a low point. So here I want to publicly say, “Thank you!” to those who received my complaint and took action. And made my day.

Thank you!