Don’t call the world dirty because you forgot to clean your glasses.
–– Aaron Hill, English poet, essayist and dramatist.
We wish! If only the lenses of our spectacles were indeed the foul and nasty things! If only our blinkers had failed to correct our blurred and beclouded vision!
But alas, there was the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) public relations officer Carl Alff Padmore trudging through nigh knee-high garbage in, of all places, Culloden Road, St Michael –– next to the conservative British High Commission and the sprawling and architecturally imposing Frank Walcott Building that houses the Barbados National Insurance Scheme.
Disquieted by the sight and smell of the rubbish and scrap, Mr Padmore was moved to observe: “This is a haven for rats; it’s a haven for mosquitoes . . . !”
A possible springboard for the chikungunya virus, we might add.
“It’s unsightly,” Alff lamented, “it’s in the middle of Government businesses; and some people want to blame the SSA. We shouldn’t have to put a sign here. Barbadians are just getting into some nasty habits, and we want to put a stop to it.”
It’s becoming harder to escape the littering and illegal dumping –– sign of warning or not –– in this much trumpeted beautiful Barbados: the loads of garbage mounting on open lots and lining the streets; the paper and plastic blowing across our roads, scurrying across the beach sand, clinging desperately to the ubiquitous wire fencing.
We can’t seem to circumvent being outraged by those people who impenitently throw large bags of garbage and any other rubbish brought from their homes onto others’ properties in distant neighbourhoods, or unrepentantly toss empty fast food boxes and plastic cups and bottles out of car windows.
You don’t have to be a University of the West Indies doctorate graduate to know it’s wrong to litter and carry your dirty stuff at other people’s places. Many of us learnt that as toddlers at home –– and were sometimes reminded by the sting of a spanking –– and further had the concept enforced at primary school.
We got it very early that anyone who flicked a cigarette butt on the sidewalk, or kicked a soft drink can to the kerb, or threw a beer bottle in the bush was wrongly and significantly contributing to an untidy and unkempt state –– and to environmental blight. Unsettlingly, we came to acknowledge that people well indoctrinated in opposite thought were simply unclean and nowhere near or next to godliness.
In time, too many of us would come to accept –– though with some reluctance –– that there wasn’t a sno-cone’s chance in hell of convincing these litterbugs and illegal dumpers among us to depart from their filthy ways, as long as their grunginess did not impact us, which in itself, honestly, has not been a healthy disposition to adopt. Consequently, every now and then, Carl Alff Padmore has had to take on the decapitation of the garbage dragon when it rears its big, ugly and smelly head.
The truth is he and his SSA team need our support. We need to help Alff bring the law to bear on those who engage in this deplorable act of illegal dumping, by reporting to the appropriate authorities the vehicle numbers of individuals seen offloading their garbage, and the offenders themselves if they can be identified. We have every right to a healthy state of place and mind. Fear of one’s civic duty will not guarantee these.
And let us not be discouraged by those who see us as cleanliness freaks and as obssessed with the effects of scattered refuse, waste and grime. We must not by intimidation and/or by our own apprehension and apathy, in consonance with the laziness and indifference of the garbage dragon, aid and abet the mission of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, or unwittingly throw down a welcome mat for chikungunya, or give remote comfort to the environmental terrorists resident in our midst.
And let not our shouts to the heavens about this defilement be in vain; and may the powers that be get off their own butts and show they mean business in keeping Barbados tidy and clean –– and healthy!