Environment featured

Ray Bates: Our battle against garbage needs many helpers

Photo by Serge van Neck on Unsplash

It upsets me to see litter along our highways. During the winter months its presence is not as disturbing due to the cover of snow but now that spring has arrived — if we look — we can see garbage that is soiling our landscape. I am perplexed by its origin, creators and prevention.

One certainty is that our elimination-of-garbage problem is larger than being a localized challenge. Its causes and effects are gigantic; they are regional, national and global.

To develop strategies to correct the negative effects being thrust upon us by waste production we need to combat it within regional areas and nationwide on an individual, business and government basis; everyone has a responsibility to assist to resolve our global dilemma. We must not kick this destructive problem down the road for the next generation to attempt to resolve.

The positive news is that each of us can assist by doing something for the lessening of garbage’s negative effects. In my community of Guysborough there are two ladies who, during their walks along Route 16, gather litter and carry it to their homes for its proper disposal. As minor as it might appear, these women are making a positive difference.

One needs to question litter’s origin and then to contemplate its prevention. The harsh reality is that our local debris is a tier in the world’s waste-production problem. I believe that small actions can lead to larger conclusions therefore by working to reduce garbage we are instilling practices that will manifest themselves into strategies to correct environmental changes. Making anti-garbage laws is not the only solution; we also need to collectively educate, encourage and contribute to combating waste’s creation and strive for its reduction or prevention.

I see society’s trash problems as being a multi-pronged battle to be waged by individuals, communities, corporations and governments. All need to examine the financial gains and the environmental benefits for joining the fight against rubbish and implement efforts for its resolution.

As individuals we can advocate on behalf of a community’s image and environmental health. Leading by example, be it personally, governmental or businesswise, will assist to educate and eradicate our debris problems. We can enhance our properties and neighbourhoods by picking up trash, placemaking our surroundings and thinking about disposal when we sell or make purchases. We can question where garbage goes when it is no longer ours. Just because it leaves one’s property or business location does not erase it from being an environmental and/or economic burden.

Communities must work to enhance their images by inserting obvious efforts and resources into their debris’ removal. Small efforts have positive outcomes. Are sufficient garbage-collection containers easily available and frequently maintained? Are unsightly properties dealt with in a fair and timely fashion? Due local governments, organizations and businesses have waste-reduction strategies to encourage participation?

For corporations and businesses to join in waste elimination there need to be financial and promotional incentives. Employers live in complex and often international commercial realities thus there must be incentives for their participation.

To combat the creation of waste governmental agencies have a number of resources.  Sadly and too frequently they bend to the will of others and in many cases bow to those forces not within our personal realities. Our elected representatives are often hampered to assist due to their fear of alienating electoral and/or financial supporters.

To eradicate the negative consequences of waste we must not instill fear for its suppression but demonstrate rewards for current and future stakeholders. 

Garbage-reduction combatants need to be partners of varying degrees. The process might be two ladies collecting litter along Route 16, communities striving to present caring images, businesses taking responsible actions to rectify their products’ effects or governments being unafraid to lead. Our mission is to participate now and not burden future generations via our lack of actions to resolve the causes and effects of what soils our regions and destroys environments. 

Ray Bates, Guysborough (Sedabooktook: harbour running far back), a former school principal and Nova Scotia Community College Truro Campus faculty member (Ret’d), has been contributing his opinions to newspapers since 1998. raybates@eastlink.ca

See also: Fighting environmental racism in Nova Scotia

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