Calling out the litter pigs


Last week I invited the reading audience to eschew “environmentalism” (extremism) and join the ranks of the common-sense “environmental advocates” club.  I did, however, inadvertently leave out one of the major principles of environmental advocacy in last week’s column:  DO NOT LITTER. Read on.


I begin my early-morning Sunday morning shift here at News Talk 96.5 KPEL by walking the length of our parking lot, back and forth, several times.  It gets me going.  Last Sunday, I get down near Eraste Landry, and when I turn around for my return trip, I spot an unsightly, unsanitary mess on the sidewalk – four bags of rotten food and numerous old, moldy protein bars.  My morning is off to a depressing start knowing that I live in a community where somebody could trash the place they call home.  Of course, I picked up the mess and properly disposed of it.  Flagrant littering happens throughout our state.  I believe a major factor contributing to our litter problem is that uneducated people simply don’t think past the end of their nose in acknowledging that litter is a problem on many fronts.


Consider the following story.  Back in 2006, Toyota Motor Company was considering six cities in the deep- south to locate a Prius (Toyota car) manufacturing plant.  West Monroe was one of the cities “on the short list.”  State Senator Robert Barham from the Monroe area met the Toyota executives at the airport to bring them to the proposed plant.  As the executives and Sen. Barham were in route to the plant, one of the executives turned to the senator and said the following:  “We just as soon turn around right now and head back to the airport.  We’re not locating a plant here.  This is the trashiest city I’ve seen.  If these people have no more pride in their community than to trash the roadside such as it is, how can I believe they will take pride in their work and properly assemble our automobiles.”  Barham was flabbergasted.  West Monroe obviously did not get the Toyota plant, Tupelo, Miss. got the plant.  Believe this story.  I still have the newspaper article from the Monroe News-Star. 


Litter is unsightly and unsanitary.  It clogs drainage channels.  It sends a message to visitors that “these people are bereft of pride and caring for their community.”  So what to do?  Fining litterbugs who are caught by law enforcement officers is the only sure way to stop the littering.  That’s unrealistic with tight budgets throughout local and state governments.  It’s highly unlikely that officers designated to spotting and ticketing litterbugs will solve the problem anytime soon.  As I said, when your populace is less educated you will see more litter.  When the populace is more educated, you’ll see less litter.  Compare Louisiana to Colorado.  Bayou State residents have less education per capita than does Colorado; Louisiana has much more litter than Colorado.  Colorado’s residents are some of the most educated in the U.S.  Litter is not a common site in Colorado.


So follow the tenets in the “environmental advocates” manual:  First, never litter; second, pick up litter whenever possible; third, speak out against litter to family, neighbor, and friends; fourth, if you see someone litter in a public area, simply pick up the litter and in a non-confrontational manner, pass by the litterbug, show them what they just threw down, and say “please don’t litter.”  Leading by example is the only civil way to lessen litter here in Acadiana.  Maybe in the future when a Louisiana city is being considered as a location for a new business, the exploratory crew with the potential new business will say, “wow, you folks sure take pride in where you live; this place is spotless.”