“Someone should really do something about that.”
Be honest, you have probably said this at some point in your life. Some thing isn’t the way it should be, objectively or subjectively. Our worlds are never what we feel they should be, but how often do we step up to make a change? I rarely do.
One of these things is the rubbish littering my local park. The Cunninghame Graham Memorial Park, known as “The Mony”, appears to be nothing remarkable, but is thought to be the site of Cardross Castle where Robert the Bruce died. The park is named after Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, a wealthy socialist. I don’t know enough about him to comment more. I do know that his actual memorial was moved elsewhere due to vandalism, which doesn’t surprise me at all.
Back to the litter. There is always a trail of litter along the footpaths, and clusters amongst the trees. You can see where folk “hide” to drink, or do drugs. Now, it used to be worse when the local secondary school was open, but it moved to the other side of town taking with it the majority of takeaway cartons, energy drink cans, and cigarette butts left behind by the pupils and staff. The Mony is still an unecessary mess though, and everytime I would walk through it I would find myself getting wound-up. Why do people drop litter in the first place? Why was nobody clearing it up regularly? Why did nobody seem to care?
I can’t answer the first question. I do not understand how anybody could drop litter at their arse. As a child I used to drive my mum bonkers because my pockets were always full of rubbish. I was very good at not dropping litter, but I was pretty rubbish at remembering to put it in a bin later!
As for the second and third questions, they come from a place of expecting other people to take responsibility for things. They could be rewritten as “Why should I clear it up regularly? I don’t drop litter!” and “Why should I care about it? Nobody else seems to.” As I am learning through my current Mindfullness CBT course, that is not how the world works. Waiting for other people to change is not a productive use of energy. It has been better for me to work on the things I can change for myself, and that means that I can take some time out of my life to clear up the park.
I started today, Samhain, as it felt like a meaningful way to celebrate the holiday. It also gave me a socially-acceptable excuse to do my litter-pick while wearing my fox onesie. I took my foxy self, a bin bag, some gloves, and a litter-picker out to The Mony and got stuck in.
I was underprepared, as I filled my bag super quickly and only covered about 1/6th of the park. In the mix was the traditional bottle of Buckfast, fizzy drink cans, polystyrene takeaway food cartons, and dog poo bags. Fucking dog poo bags. What’s worse than leaving dog shit lying around? Wrapping dog shit in plastic and then leaving it lying around. It boggles the mind. My most interesting find was the handlebars from a child’s bike.
As I was finishing up, I met a dogwalker who handed me some glass she had collected. We chatted about doing what we can, and I made the decision to go out a few times a week and focus on filling just one bag with rubbish. I have a habit of trying to do Big Grand Gestures that I cannot sustain, and eventually have to give up. But one or two bags a week? That is doable for me.
I can’t stop people from dropping litter, but I can do a bit it mitigate it, and after speaking with a dogwalker I realise that people do care, they/we just don’t really know to show it. Maybe we have to stop waiting for other people to tell us what to do, and what we can do, and just do what we can by ourselves.