I was a young boy when my family took our first trip from Illinois to Utah. We stopped at a scenic park with picnic tables to enjoy our lunch. A family at a nearby table had just finished and were loading their car, leaving behind all their table scraps and trash.
I was surprised to see my father approach that family and calmly request that they clean up their mess. They refused saying that someone would clean it up sooner or later. The man started his car, but was amazed when my Dad stood in front of his car blocking his exit. The man roared his engine.
My mother, siblings and I sat dumbfounded at the scene. Would my father actually allow that man to run over him? Would that man actually do it? No, he shut his car off, swore at my Dad and then cleaned up his mess. My Dad thanked him and quietly returned to our table to finish his lunch.
My Dad would have been a hero in the television series, “What Would You Do?” where actors play their parts in scenes of conflict just to see what innocent bystanders will do…if anything.
I have never forgotten that incident, and it forged a lifelong commitment in me when I moved to Utah to help keep it scenic, clean, and beautiful. There should be locations here where traces of mankind are difficult to see.
You have probably all witnessed reports of tons of plastic trash accumulating in oceans and beaches where it threatens marine life. At times, it is so bad the beaches are closed.
There is no excuse for that kind of behavior along our coastlines, or anywhere within our own State. We’ve all heard the slogan: Pack it in, pack it out.
If you have litter in your car, leave it there until you reach a trash can. Bottles, cans, gum-wrappers and cigarette butts have no place to be discarded along highways, sidewalks, or hiking trails. Take them with you for proper disposal. Don’t think that someone will clean it up sooner or later.
To most people, the idea of allowing litter and trash to pile up in slums or developing countries is a sign of surrender. It shows a lack of pride or services in their community. A small percentage of people honestly believe that they have the right to do as they please, including littering or playing loud music as they walk along trails designed for serenity and contemplation. I’m not suggesting confronting people like that because they will never be able to understand your point of view. Or perhaps they lacked the training of a father like mine. So, I tend to be one of those who usually picks up the litter that I find along the trails.
But if I see you drop it…we’ll probably have a friendly discussion.
This is Ron Hellstern, and I am Wild About Utah.
Images: Courtesy & Copyright Ron Hellstern
Text: Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association
Adopt a Highway, Utah DOT, https://www.udot.utah.gov/main/f?p=100:pg:0:::1:T,V:28,340
For a Better Utah, Help Clean Up Roadside Litter, Deseret News, April 29, 1989, https://www.deseretnews.com/article/44221/FOR-A-BETTER-UTAH-HELP-CLEAN-UP-ROADSIDE-LITTER.html
John Rasmuson, Litter Bugs
A little trash pickup goes a long way, Feb 19, 2014, https://www.cityweekly.net/utah/litter-bugs/Content?oid=2374891