All Things Great and Small

I am a believer that all things we do, great or small, have some impact on the greater whole of existence. It’s the “butterfly-flapped-its-wings-and-caused-a-tornado-to-form-in-Kansas” idea. Whatever we do, affects not only us, but those around us in ways that we can’t imagine. It could be said that I believe in karma, or causality, or whatever the current term de jour is. That’s one reason why I can’t understand littering.

I’m not talking about rolling up to the ride of the an old dirt road with a pickup loaded down with this week’s trash and a couch or two and throwing it off in a ditch. To me, littering and “dumping” are too different things. When I talk about littering, what comes to mind are the candy wrappers, fast food cups, and most insidious of all - the cigarette butt.

When you spend time on your bike pedaling down the road at 15 - 20 miles per hour without a car and air conditioning shielding you from your surroundings, you notice all the litter that has amassed on the sides of roads. In some areas, such as the PARK NAME park West Terrace Park on the western slopes of downtown or off the side of Cliff Drive, it’s worse than others, but there’s trash everywhere. What makes people think that the community as a whole wants what they’re casually tossing aside?

I have an idea. Local blogger Katie sort of touched on it in her recent “hypothetical” post. While she didn’t come up with the answer herself, I think the situation she described is caused by people being so concerned with themselves that when something doesn’t directly effect them, it seems to have no effect at all. Call it the yang of the “I want it now” culture. Instead of “I want”, the ideology that fuels littering is the “I don’t want”, therefore I must get rid of it immediately - damn the consequences.

But what consequences are they damning? Though I wouldn’t know where to look up such things, I imagine the number of citations actually written last year for littering are miniscule. Think about it, how many times have you see a cigarette butt fly out the window? How many times has it not even registered with you that someone just did that? The candy wrapper on in the drainage ditch. Did you even see it there? Littering is a crime against all of us that has been marginalized so much that it doesn’t even register with most people.

Maybe I’m being utopian. Maybe it is too much to expect people to give a damn about what they’re doing that effects other people and their environment. Maybe. But what if I’m wrong? What if people do care about the impact they’re having? And what if those people would start to say something?