I wanted to bow down to a man, recently. I, who swore never to bow to any man on earth except Nelson Mandela, was ready to do some real bending to get my almost six-foot frame to reach our much shorter Minister of Youth, Stephen Lashley. That is how happy I am that he is pushing an anti-litter campaign in the National Youth Policy of Barbados.
I have been so unhappy with the dirtiness besieging Barbados that I encapsulated my feelings in an angry expletive-riddled missile which I banged out on this keyboard a few weeks ago. As I was about to launch it into cyberspace my alter-ego tugged my arm. “That news will chase tourists from our shores, pushing this one and a half export sector economy further into financial distress,” she stressed.
I shrugged my shoulder: “When this country is lathered in dengue fever, malaria or leptospirosis, we will soon be dead; tourists will read about it then and avoid Barbados, so don’t give me that.”
My support for the campaign is enhanced because of its youth focus. We are digging out the litter culture from the roots, the youth upwards. Young people will plan, publicise and mobilise troops to educate our citizens and to clean up the place. You see, the adults have let us down badly in fighting against litter bugs in fact many of them are cultivating litter bugs.
On Friday, as I navigated a litter-paved sidewalk at Six Roads, St. Philip I heard an adult instructing a little one to ‘drop it there.” No bin was immediately in sight, I looked left, right and all around no arm’s-length bin, but I had to duck from a wind-driven wrapper suddenly approaching my face. The child had it loose. What an example from an adult! We really need the children to teach the children.
It is not merely about strategically placed bins. Littering is pervasive. A little distance away at the bus shelter, a group of trendy teenagers sat waiting to board the bus going toward St. Patrick’s. The weaves, makeup, and jewellery were in place and you couldn’t believe those two pairs of Nike Express worn by the young men were on feet that walked on the marly road. Too clean! But bam, that image was shot when they fired empty pep bottles over the other side of the road. Two garbage cans were wide open on duty to the left of the bus shelter.
This abhorrence for cleanliness and disregard of the threat to our underwater ground supply cut across classes and creed. This one stirs up too much anger so I have to remove myself from the story. So picture this.
A long stretch of countryside, no houses in sight, fields of tall green sugar canes grow majestically, defying those who say sugar is no longer Barbados’ king. But the offspring of those who once toiled in these hot fields mock the canes.
They, the nouveau riche pull up in their air-conditioned motor cars; roll down their windows and with as much force as their gym-toned muscles can expel, violently pelt large bags of garbage into the bosom of the towering sugar canes. “Take that, you matter little today,” their attitude seems to say.
Nature steps in and soon reveals their brutality. Old models of play stations, television sets, computers, cell phones; bottles and cans, and so on, are strewn along the hedgerows, in an untidy mess.
Unemployed people who shun the fields as a work place rush in, dissecting and dispersing this waste across wider areas as they search for ‘treasure’ among the filth. The country side is soon painted with disembowelled electronic goods and other leftovers from this exercise.
The behaviour is similar at the beaches; the magnet which we used to lure tourists. Plastics bottles and other debris from picnics are left to drag out to sea, joining other garbage which was dumped in gullies but flowed down to the sea during heavy rains. Voluntary groups recent dragged tons of garbage from our beaches. We are trading our goose’s golden eggs for aedes aegypti mosquitoes, carriers of dengue fever.
I support the anti-litter policy, which will include an education component, but I want more action. I want the law makers to:
- Ban urinating in public.
One day as I strolled along River Road a man a few yards ahead of me stopped suddenly as I got into earshot, he said: “watch yuh self miss, I gine drain my lizard.” If I had muscles … But I have a mouth. So I veered into the road to avoid the expected flow, and scornfully retorted: “you should’ve said you draining an ant.”
At the bus stops; near Miss Jones paling; through a side street in Bridgetown, next to a tree at a picnic spot, men urinate everywhere. Why the hell, women in Barbados always find somewhere decent to do the natural and men seems so out of control.
- Improve or enact anti-litter laws; use special police to deal with offender and give the courts the right to make them, rich and poor, do community service as manual workers attached to the Sanitation Department
- Ban fete organisers from gluing those brightly coloured promotion posters to walls. It isn’t because the posters show-off half-naked women ‘pooching back’ or ‘lock off’ in men. These posters crowd the walls, sometimes layered on each other; some are peeling with bits hanging from the walls.
- Fine politicians/political parties if their campaign posters and graffiti is not removed from wall and public places within a specific period. Politicians add to the muck. The graffiti and the posters from their last elections campaign cling forgotten like some voters and promises.
- Introduce some fiscal tool that will attack the following: It is now cheaper to buy a new printer (certain brands and sizes) than printer ink; to buy a new cell phone that repair an old one; to buy new household gadgets (small ones) than to repair them.
- Hail those who voluntarily clean up the beaches and streets as heroes.
But I must applaud the Minister for step one.