St. John’s Antigua- There is yet another call for the authorities to name and shame litterbugs – those caught tossing trash out of their car windows and those taking refuse by the truck loads to stealthily dump on fallow lands.
Environmentalist Martha Watkins-Gilkes said on OBSERVER Radio this week that another national clean-up is in order, but first the policymakers and enforcers must shore up the laws relating to littering.
While we can all agree that the country could use a good cleaning we might go on divergent paths when it comes to advocating that a small group of conscious people, once again, clean the filth in neighbourhoods where the people responsible for the filth relegate themselves to spectators from the comfort of their porches.
Naming and shaming litterbugs might cause the person who has been caught to think twice the next time. But the jury is out on whether or not it will be a deterrent to those who are able to go undetected. Such an argument of naming and shaming to change behaviour would have to consider if the death penalty has deterred would-be killers.
What we need, instead of a small band cleaning the beaches, the byways, the highways and communities, is a dedication to raising a next generation of people who will understand that this world is their world, that everything we need comes from the environment, and if we don’t take care of the environment, it will cease to take care of us.
We also need to let communities take responsibility for and pride in their own areas.
But this can’t happen if people continue to flood the airwaves with calls wondering who will come to clean the gutters and drains in front of their houses. Or if those same people see when the refuse is dumped on vacant lots and do or say nothing more than call on the politicians.
We can’t instill that sense of pride and responsibility if schools treat the cleaning of the premises as punitive action for students who commit infractions rather than community spirit.
And this can’t happen if parents object strongly to school administrators who make pupils clean the messes they helped create by saying they didn’t send their children to school to become garbage men.
A clean community sends many messages. Among them, it says that people care about protecting animal and plant life from the risks, and it says that someone cares about this piece of land.
Responsibility in this instance means the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something. This community is responsible for the filth or this community is responsible for the pleasing aesthetics.
And that’s why we feel that a band of well-intentioned people cleaning in populated areas will send the wrong message to the litterbugs. They have proven by previous clean-up efforts that they are incapable of being shamed into action. Clean their areas today and bet your bottom dollar they will mess it up again tomorrow.
Community leaders will have to drive the push to change mindsets. And while it is unfortunate that people need incentives to do what they ought, perhaps at that level, and taking pattern from Fitches Creek, home and garden competitions can be established and green spaces can be maintained as more than grounds for grazing ruminants.
We agree with Martha Watkins-Gilkes and many others who have registered concern about the filth and the proclivity of some to add to it. But we disagree that it is someone else’s job. After all, we are quick to say God helps those who help themselves.
We would advocate a clean-up exercise that involves communities committing to cleaning their own areas. The efforts of those who are willing could then be bolstered by an oversight committee, which could, among other things, organise for trucks to cart away the trash to the dumpsite.
Communities that participate would have the clean spaces to show for their efforts. Those who don’t can continue to bond with their trash.
In this the era of do it yourself, we can’t continue drinking tonic for someone else’s cold.