Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Modest Proposal for Teaching Litterers a Lesson

As members of a civilized society, we are known for our collective ability to work together, identify and solve problems, and act swiftly and efficiently when something pressing is facing our nation.

Challenge accepted (Image).
Nah, I'm just screwing with you.  We're a dysfunctional bunch of clowns that are often times incapable of coming together to change even the simplest of bad habits.  And to illustrate this point, I'd like to reach back to a topic that was ubiquitous throughout my grade school classrooms along with saying no to drugs, sex, underage drinking, and forest fires.  If you hadn't guessed already, I'm talking about littering.

Littering is a topic that has been fermenting in my noggin for a while now.  It is a fundamental lesson that we all learn from a young age, and it seems to be a generally accepted principle among adults to dispose of one's rubbish in the proper receptacles.  However, as well as many of us seem to do with throwing away our everyday waste, there is one specific type of unwanted goods that seems to get a free pass when it comes to social norms: Orphans.

I personally have never understood the appeal of orphans.  While consuming their innards has become seemingly less and less popular, I continue to see people on the streets lighting them on fire on a day to day basis with no regard for the physical well-being of themselves of those around them.  Orphans have been clinically proven to be a useless form of nutrition, as well as carcinogenic, time and time again, yet people still feel the need to get involved with something promoting nothing filth and disease.

Sorry, did I say orphans?  I meant cigarettes.  Always confuse the two of those for some reason.

I went to college at a school with what appeared to be an extensive number of smokers.  From the front of certain academic buildings billowed hyperbolic storm clouds of second hand smoke.  While I did not find the smoke curious, I did take note of the many students that when finishing their cigarettes, would flick them into the air with a careless and carefree je ne sais quoi.  Or as people outside France might call it, arrogance.  These cigarette butts ended up littering the streets, even as dedicated cigarette receptacles stood at the entrance to every door they congregated outside of.

This rampant improper disposal of butts can also be seen running rampant on the roads, where drivers can be seen tapping their ashes out into the open air, just before tossing their butts out the window of their moving cars; an act that makes me want to throw their butts out the window of their moving cars.  A few months ago, I witnessed a woman extend her arm out the window upon finishing her cigarette, and launching it into the bushes on the other side of her car with an exaggerated hook shot that would have made Magic Johnson weep, and Smokey the Bear maul a bitch.

After deep contemplation regarding this issue, I decided that the reason cigarette butts are a more socially acceptable weapon of littering than most lies in their toxicity.  Cigarettes contain, among other things, arsenic, lead, butane, ammonia, benzene, death, addiction, and high school popularity.  Presumably, if someone is willing to inflict such damage on their own bodies, it seems reasonable to think that they would be completely fine with disposing of those chemicals into the land and water that we all share.

My solution to this problem comes in two parts and is meant to address 1) the attitudes of the smokers that cause the littering, and 2) those that stand by assuming that littering the ground with cigarette butts is acceptable simply because it is so common.

1) Smokers
To change the mind of smokers when it comes to this issue, we must simply invoke the golden rule which states that we should treat others the way we want to be treated.  In short, for a littering smoker to ever learn their lesson, they must be treated like the environment they so carelessly pollute.  To do this, all that the general public must do is to roll up the flammable, hazardous chemical of their choice in a piece of cigarette paper, light it on fire, and flick it at any of the offenders that must be taught a lesson, all whilst asking them how it feels.  Another option would be to throw them out of a moving vehicle to illustrate how it feels to be one of their cigarettes, but I'm not here to preach about the rights of inanimate objects.

2) Bystanders
Bystanders to this issue must be shown the absurdity of the littering double standard they so shamelessly allow to continue.  I can't imagine that one of these people would stand by, as bystanders often do, and allow others to flick objects other than cigarettes out into the open.  So, to illustrate to them how silly it is to allow cigarette butts to get a free pass, all the average person needs to do is stand in a crowded area and flick their unwanted refuse exaggeratedly onto the ground.  Possible items to use include food leftovers, beer cans, boxes and packaging, old sneakers, and used condoms.  I can't imagine the average person's reaction to this would be anything less than a raised eyebrow and a motherly, disapproving glare which, ironically, is a glare that is often used when a mother witnesses their child's food, beer cans, or used condoms on the ground.

Campaigns promoting material responsibility in the past have come and gone.  In my day, Woodsy the Owl asked that I "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute."  Smoky the Bear's "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" declaration rested the prevention of forest fires solely on my shoulders.  And while this crushing burden of responsibility overwhelmed me until I realized there were other people in the world that could talk to bears besides me, it had little effect on me when it came to preventing litter and wildfires. 

I'm confident that with this new campaign--the face of which could potentially be the an abused, parentless, street urchin--we can limit the amount of butts we see on the ground to only those that are sitting, and those that have dropped it like it's hot, or dipped it low, but have not yet picked it up slow.  Good luck, everyone.

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