Everywhere I turn there is trash. It looks innocent along the road lying where someone threw it out a window of a passing car or the wind decided to let it lie. Maybe a bush liked the plastic bag and snared it out of wind’s arms. Then it starts building. And wind helps in spreading it around. There’s paper, bags, a lonely shoe, things that fell off a truck or were left behind from an accident.
Out in the desert, there is trash from people too poor to take it to the transfer station or lacking the understanding that the desert is not our waste land. It piles up and spreads out. People go out and shoot up their detritus thinking its broken apart, so they don’t need to clean up, and there is no need to worry about the shells either.
This irritates me. I cannot help but see it every day as I drive or walk about. I cannot seem to be able to get away from it. As I drive down my road, I see piles of beer bottles, a trail of booze bottles, and windblown paper and bags. There is no bit of greenery in the county and few in the city that doesn’t hide something discarded. It makes me sad.
I used to ask what we can do about it, but I know what to do. I can clean up when I’m out and about, pick up my space, or join a cleanup crew. But, now I am wondering what it is about society that lets people think that this is okay? Isn’t there someone who is upset like me?
When I started backpacking, I learned about the Leave No Trace movement. I thought, finally someone does care. We backpackers are like minded. We want to get out on the trail and see nature at its finest, get away from society. We learned how to pick up after ourselves and to not let the world know that we’ve been here by our discards. But, I was wrong. Out on the trail, there are signs of someone trying to be Hansel and Gretel leaving behind toilet paper markers of where they have been, so they can follow it home later. Others think they need to pile their trash in a fire ring for the animals. Or maybe it is to help deter wildlife?
Things drop off our backpacks, or we forget that one thing we placed next to a tree for security. I get that. But, to leave garbage and toilet paper behind is disgusting. Doesn’t the next person deserve to see the trail as nice as the one before? Didn’t we learn to pack out what we pack in and to have a bag or two to put the garbage in? Do we really need to have volunteers to pack out what we packed in?
A few years ago, a group of backpackers made it their goal to pick up all the trash they found on their backpacking trip. I think I heard that they brought out a 1000 pounds of garbage or more on their on their trip. They even brought out a mattress and an inflatable. I applaud them. But at the same time, I ask that everyone start picking up after themselves. It is not socially acceptable to litter.
We raised our kids to make the camping spot better than it was when we arrived. We would set up and start picking up the trash before anything else was done. During the trip, we would pick up what we saw. In public, we never threw something on the ground or out the car window. We would rather see our tax dollars go to something better than picking up after everyone. When I am out backpacking, I expect others to be that conscientious. On one of our trips this year, we picked up a Mylar balloon (brought in by the wind, I’m sure) and glasses frame and found a pair of trekking poles. The toilet paper was left for those who were afraid they wouldn’t be able to find their way home. We hope they picked it up on their backtrack.
I ask of everyone out there to do what they can to make the trail better than how they found it. I also, ask that everyone pick up after themselves. The trail is not a waste land just as the desert isn’t either. It’s not going to get better unless we do something.