Thursday, September 22, 2011

Small Things You Can Do To Keep the Nature Clean

Last weekend: short escape in the Bucegi Mountains with my girlfriend, Alina.

View from the road to Piatra Arsa chalet

Unfortunately, the closer we got to easily accessible places of interest, like the "Babele" chalet, we were stroke by the increasing number of beer cans and plastic bottles that were thrown away in the field.

Gathering Plastic Bottles, near the "Babele" Peak (1st round)

Many people think that either a solution cannot be found to having tourists not throwing garbage in the fields or that it is not their responsibility to find a one. I don't think so.

Plastic bottles left behind by tourists

Probably most people believe that it lies with someone else, like with authorities that should increase penalties for garbage disposal in non-specifically arranged locations, have enough law enforcement officers in the field to apply the law, install trash bins in these areas and collect the garbage frequently. NGOs. Students. Army. Somebody else. And up to a point they are right: authorities should maintain public spaces clean, as we pay them to do so and it lies within their area of responsibility.

Others simply don't care.

Plastic bottles gathered from the fields, near the "Piatra Arsa" chalet (round 2) - unfortunately we couldn't carry more with our bare hands

What is often forgotten is the role that each individual has in maintaining the environment pristine. It is within our grasp to have an attitude. Yes, I believe in the power of small individual action applied on a large scale. I believe in the power of small personal effort multiplied by a large number of people:

  • When you see a plastic bottle thrown down in the grass or in the street, collect it. Collect as many as you can. Other people will see you and might do the same. Yes, I honestly believe that many people don't know that they can collect these bottles. 
  • Invite others to follow. Many people are afraid to make the first step. Show them that it is ok.
  • Explain what you are doing. Explain the power of collective action. If 10 people collect 10 bottles each, that is 100 bottles - a clean field, without much hassle. 10 people is very few for a location like "Babele" where hundreds  of people go there every weekend. Explain the power of personal example. Spread the word! Take a stand!
  • When you see someone throwing a cigarette on an empty bottle in an un-arranged location, approach him, look him in the eyes and ask why. (yes, it is scary at first, but what would you do if that person throws trash in your own garden - yes, the streets, the mountains, the parks are our own collective gardens)

View from the top

I believe that many people are reluctant to act because they don't trust that their effort has an effect on the long term. But it does and it extends beyond their mere action. I believe that cleaning up the environment is contagious and invites others to follow. It passes the message further. It creates waves. It creates a trend. An individual, by himself, does not have enough power to clean up the whole planet. But he can empower the people around him to do so by his personal example. If 10 people watch and follow him in the course of his life, and if another 10 people follow each of the 10 people, we have already 111 people cleaning up our fields, our neighborhoods, our streets. And it grows exponentially. And where it is clean and tidy, it is less likely for others to throw trash back in.

Tourists at the "Babele" Chalet - if each of them would pick one bottle...

Yes, I believe that it lies within our power to act locally. It is scary at first but after that it feels great. Don't wait for the weekend. Tomorrow, when you see a plastic bottle on your way to work, pick it up! You do it in your living room, right? Why not extend to your street, your nearby park, our forests?