A love affair with litter

Terrence Honore -
Terrence Honore -


THE CRIME of littering is too prevalent in TT. We are murdering our environment. We are failing to see that our bodies of water are dying with all the litter we indiscriminately throw out of cars and leave on our streets, or dump by our rivers and beaches.

The Litter Act 20 of 1973 tells us there are fines of up to $4,000 for perpetrators. But not enough people have been arrested or convicted for the careless and lawless way they dispose of their litter.

Recently, I was an eyewitness to the escalating crime of littering. I observed how a little rainfall resulted in garbage piling up in our drains. I realised that people are still littering all over the place. It’s a disgrace. It is not a matter to be trifled with. It reflects a people who can be accused of being disorganised and downright dirty. Are we guilty as charged?

While some of our leaders continue to talk “garbar” in and outside of Parliament, garbage is piling up everywhere. There should be an assessment of littering control in constituencies as a review of MPs’ effectiveness, instead of just waiting to count the votes.

Yes, this is yet another lament about litter. But the intent is to get people to forsake their littering ways. We cannot continue to let litter represent who are and how we present ourselves to other countries.

Littering is a crime of the mind, but it comes from the heart. It manifests in many ways, and piles up in streets, drains and rivers. And nothing seems to be able to reduce this passion for putting things in the wrong places. Do people think that when they throw trash away it’s the end of their responsibility? They are so wrong. It’s the contradiction of our existence – to live in beauty and surround ourselves with so much rubbish.

Some people just love to litter. It lingers on their minds. There seems to be a “sweet” feeling for doing the “stink” thing of throwing garbage out of a car or bus. I can testify to that.

I recall one day while driving south along the Solomon Hochoy Highway, a few metres behind a car with three occupants, one of its passengers indiscriminately threw a bottle out of the window. It landed on the grass between the lanes, rebounded and flew up towards my windscreen. I instinctively pulled the steering wheel to avoid a collision. The car ahead slowed briefly, then sped off, leaving me to “handle my stories.” I lived to tell the tale. Thank God. But I was left shaken and angry at that act of littering.

But the scenes of litter in our public places continue to be painful to the eye and searing to the soul. Who can vaccine us against the virus of littering that has infected many minds and resulted in pollution of our waterways? The chronic case of littering makes us sick. It’s a sickness for which we must seek a cure.

Internationally, the ever-worsening statistical reviews continue to shout at us. In 2016, our nation was ranked as the tenth most toxic country in the world. In 2017, it was the turn of the World Bank to tell us that we were the highest producer of municipal waste per capita. These facts have not deterred us from seriously polluting our environment. With the resultant effects of polluted water courses, widespread flooding and mosquito invasion, creating an overall health concern. We have been hearing but not heeding the messages.

Our paradise is a tourist destination, a place of prosperity and pleasant surroundings, with still a few pastoral scenes that would still make the famous local painter Cazabon blush with delight. Like the Bible account of the Garden of Eden, we are tasked to take care of this place, to maintain its pristine beauty. People seem to love to litter our landscape instead of preserving its beauty. We are paying the price for that every day.

This is an uncomfortable paradox: how can a country that has such high creativity make such a mess of things. If this is symptomatic of a nation in distress, we are more in a mess than we care to admit.

This act of littering should be offensive to all of us, not only the few who hate to litter. We must enforce the Litter Act before it’s too late!

We litter with disdain, again and again. It’s a bad love affair and we can’t hear the horn that is signalling the demise of our paradise.

Many others have written, and spoken, and even some legislation and campaigns have been launched, all with good intentions, but there is no letting up on the littering. It’s a silent crime that leaves messy evidence to follow, but few seem to be convicted of the act. And perpetrators hide in plain sight.

But I can’t hide my disgust in seeing how people continue to “kill” our environment with impunity. Nowhere escapes the uncaring loads of litter thrown from cars by children and irresponsible adults.

The analysis of this problem is one for the psychologists, the psychiatrists and even the anthropologists. But while they continue to have their say, the problem persists with us today. We need to go back to the old granny philosophy that espoused cleanliness and order in how we live – but alas the good ole days seem so far gone.

Today, we face a modern madness where people just love to litter, love to see bottles and cans on the streets and clogging up the drains. And those who revel in turning a beautiful river lime scene into a “horror story” and walking away without any guilt about what they left behind.

But what of those among us who embrace the view that cleanliness is next to godliness? Certainly, there are members of our community who practise what they preach. If this is true, then it must be reflected publicly, somehow, sometime.

Above all, there is a sacred trust that must not be violated, as decreed by God, to maintain our “garden of Eden.” Each individual and every family must be charged with keeping a clean scene. The Litter Act must be enforced. We must have a pride of place.

Let us endeavour to keep faithful to cleanliness, to our county – and stop loving litter.


"A love affair with litter"

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