At a traffic light in Midtown this week, I sat and watched, stunned, as occupants of the car in front me tossed fast-food bags and plastic cups from three different windows of their vehicle and then sped off as the light changed. I chased them to the next light, hoping to get their license number and report the incident. (Yeah, I know it probably wouldn't have done much good, but I wanted to do something.)
The car didn't have a license plate.
It's easy to feel helpless in the face of such ignorance, of such arrogant disdain for a neighborhood or, for that matter, a city and a planet. The trash those fools left blowing down Peabody Avenue will end up in someone's yard or will be carried by rain and wind into our storm drains and eventually into urban streams such as Nonconnah Creek, and from there into the Mississippi and even to the Gulf of Mexico.
If you haven't driven to Presidents Island and looked at the trash lining McKellar Lake, you should do so. It's sobering and depressing. And remember, this is after a massive cleanup in late March that collected five tons of plastics, tires, bottles, and other junk from the lake.
A lake where people once swam and water-skied has become the city's toilet bowl. Nonconnah Creek should be renamed the "Alimentary Canal."
It's the same all over the county. It's a rare borrow pit or urban lake that doesn't have construction junk, old appliances, and other dumped material nearby. It's the same at many spots along the Loosahatchie River and the Wolf River.
We need to do better. We need to drastically raise the fines for littering, create a reward program for those who report dumping, and make the culprits clean up the site.
The city makes it easy for most of us to recycle glass, plastic, paper, and cardboard. Given that fact, we should all be putting out more in our recycling bins than we do in our dumpsters each week. Spend three bucks on cloth bags at the grocery and start using them. You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to carry groceries in a couple of cloth bags instead of 15 tiny plastic ones.
I know littering isn't armed robbery or car-jacking, but a polluted and trashy city says something about us. And it ain't good. Going green isn't just for tree-huggers anymore. It's good for our city — and for all of us who live here. Let's clean this place up.