Demystification Guru

Just because we don't understand something, doesn't mean it isn't understandable.

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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Friday, October 14, 2005

on litter

There is a popular theory in crime control called the “broken windows” theory, in which it is postulated that one broken window in a neighbourhood building prompts people to break other windows, vandalize and commit petty crimes. The theory has its critics but there is an intuitive correctness about it. If people don’t care about something, they won’t look after it. Home ownership is a prime example of this as people who own their homes tend to put more into them than people who rent. Litter is a manifestation of how people do not feel connected to public spaces.

It is a rare person who drops garbage on the floor of his own home. But somehow, the same person doesn’t think twice about letting the wrapper from his candy bar or cigarette pack fall to the ground as he walks along a public sidewalk. People seem to be unaware that our home isn’t just the building where we live.

Perhaps in addition to lacking a sense of ownership, people also lack respect for public places. Think of the teenager whose room is a wreck and who refuses to participate in basic maintenance like taking out the garbage. When that child becomes an adult and moves into her own apartment, she realizes that she is the only person around who will care enough to do her laundry and wash the dishes. Hopefully, she will learn that it is self-respect that motivates a clean environment. Unfortunately, people seem to get stuck on the notion that picking up after themselves is just something that has to be done, instead of understanding that we are fortunate to be living in this house or this city and that we show our respect to the environment which sustains us by looking after it in the ways that we can.


Blogger bikerider said...

Ironically, it was probably the notion of "property" that contributed to all this. People look at property as being either, "mine" or "not mine". While my house is mine, the street outside is not and so they feel free to litter it up, passing on the problem to that mysterious "someone else". In public housing, they consider it "not mine" and some trash it. People must start seeing the whole world as theirs and take responsibility for keeping it looking its best. We all have a vested interest in the outcome.

12:58 p.m., October 17, 2005  
Blogger JuliaR said...

I agree, "bikerider". I actually DO feel a sort of ownership for the whole planet, or maybe it's more of a kinship, a sense of belonging or even a sense of gratitude. I am grateful that I live on this planet and so I have a sense of responsibility to look after it. Something like that.

1:26 p.m., October 17, 2005  

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