Absolute Rubbish. Species suicide is not painless…


Rubbish. Litter. Trash. Garbage. Waste. Refuse.

I hope most of us agree that we should say ‘enough is enough’. Now.  These words should be obsolete. Frowned upon like swear words. Defunct.

“We live in a culture where people are more offended by “swear” words and middle fingers than they are by famine, warfare and the destruction of the environment.” RSIFFIAOI 

However, instead of a ceasefire, these words are inducing a new gold rush as the vultures swoop in to ‘handle’ our ever-increasing, careless pile of rubbish, for cash. A burgeoning industry may not want a fast diminishing resource, but all these words like, ‘industry’, ‘financial markets’, ‘economics’ are, in fact, just words.

If there’s no clean air, clean water or productive topsoil then everything else is just gravy mate.

It’s our own fault entirely. We’ve been relying on “They” for far too long now. The all-seeing all-knowing superhuman omnipotent “They”. The problem is that “They” have had plenty of time in “power” and yet things are just going from bad to worse. It’s time we accepted that “They” can’t help us and we need to turn to “We”. “We” need to step in and get things back on an even keel. The earth is our home and we should treat it as such, we live in a global village nowadays, let’s act like it.

We, as a species, a population, a culture, a community, are slovens. We have a beautiful home, the earth. What are we thinking? Throwing our beer cans and sweet wrappers behind the sofa, broken electrical goods strewn over the surfaces, manky piles of plastic filling the sink, broken glass, putrefying food and something’s definitely burning….. and it’s toxic!

I am gutted that I have lived in the era of the “throw away culture”, “disposable products”, “replace, upgrade, replace”. A time when shopping is classed as a hobby. I’m pretty low impact but I can do better. I performed a long-overdue self-intervention at the beginning of the year: we have reduced our ‘rubbish’ by about 75%. Interestingly, simultaneously reducing our consumption of unhealthy food, drastically.

You see, the litter in your hand is one small part, but the trail of destruction, firstly to produce the damn wrapper and then to make it disappear after use, is mindblowing. Out of sight, however, is no longer out of mind…or indeed out of sight any more.

Let’s take stock;

Our oceans and seas are full of harmful plastic

Our rivers and lakes are diluted with harmful effluent and runoff

Our air is polluted with harmful fumes and chemicals

Our precious topsoil is being systematically poisoned, eroded and rendered useless.

So, that is how we treat our most precious resources, the three elements essential for life. And really all in pursuit of our own selfish desires and wants. We’ve taken credit that can never be fully restituted and, very shortly, will make a triple-dip recession seem like a walk in the park. It may have escaped the notice of the majority but humans are only human. We can’t survive without clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and clean, healthy topsoil to grow food. The shiny things are making us go doolally and stop thinking straight. An Iphone can’t literally feed your children. A jewel-encrusted ring won’t actually produce fresh water to hydrate you. A £50 note is, in reality, only useful for a tiny bit of short-lived warmth if burned or to blow your nose on. Perspective is maybe a privilege, I don’t know.

I was shocked and terrified into understanding this, at the tender and impressionable age of 5, and I can highly recommend it as an effective preventative method! My parents had always been incredibly strict about rubbish, littering and the harm it does to our environment and wildlife, but it was two graphic videos shown at school that grafted images onto my brain capable of producing guilt and disgust at the mere sight of discarded rubbish. As a little girl, the cute little hedgehog, strangled to death through getting caught in beer multipack plastic rings, coupled with the visual impact of an enormous landfill site, was the last straw for me. You see it’s not just the big, far away environmental problems that are affected but also our little fluffy creatures and beautiful birds, our fish and frogs, shore and sea life. We are sh**ting on our own doorstep: polluting our own water and contaminating our own food. Filling our own backyard with junk and scrap and old toys and rusty metal, glass and plastic.

Instead of competing to decide who has the best “room”, we need to cooperate in cleaning the “house”. The communal areas get especially bad as they’re so well-used. The metaphor goes on and on really.

I think that individual power and responsibility is demonstrated well by   http://www.avaaz.org/en/    Avaaz is a petition site and it gets results. It has millions of members and a direct action approach. It shows us that if each one of us does something small today, like click a button on a petition or recycle a bottle, the overall effect can be staggering.

The “Broken Windows Theory”, introduced in 1982 by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L Kelling can be applied to the litter problem:

“The broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime.” Source: Wikipedia

It makes sense. If one piece of rubbish is chucked on the ground, more will inevitably follow. The locals will feel more ‘rubbish’ about where they live and probably only add to the downward trajectory through disillusionment. Once pleasure and pride have left the area all the other bad elements creep in. I reckon, simplistic as it sounds, that if we all cleaned up the place and kept it looking nice then everyone would feel better whatever their circumstances, more care would be taken to maintain and pride and pleasure restored. Better to be unemployed/ill/skint in a clean and beautiful place than with the added misery of living in a tip. It’s not a quick fix for all the world’s problems but it could certainly be a significant start. The positive ripple effect could prove quite surprising. If we don’t try then we will literally suffocate under the weight of all our waste.

We can continue to sleepwalk into this emergency but I don’t want to come with you, I don’t want to be there when the air is cancerous, the water deadly and food so scarce it hurts. I don’t want to witness the inevitable civil unrest, oppression, fighting, violence that goes with diminishing resources. Look what happens already with the non essentials, like crude oil and palm oil, gold and diamonds and now imagine for one second, if you dare, the level of desperation when it is our very essentials for life – air, water, soil – that are threatened. This is not a scare story or some hippie conspiracy, it’s a simple equation of Supply and Demand. If we taint and diminish our Supply whilst exponentially increasing our Demand…….well, let’s just say I can see why more and more people are praying fervently to God for miracles. That’s usually what happens as a last resort in a disaster isn’t it? Unless the miracle comes, like yesterday, and is literally “alakazam – all rubbish be gone, all water be clean, all air be cleansed and all topsoil restored”, then we might just have to take responsibility ourselves. We’re old enough and ugly enough to clean up our own mess.

I can’t say I’m enthusiastic for a slow and painful demise but we live in an era where numbers make change and it just doesn’t feel to me like the majority notice, understand or care. With insidious infection, symptoms are often ignored or overlooked until they overwhelm, at which point it can be too late…

If you think cleaning up isn’t a matter of life and death, think again.


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