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Thursday, April 2, 2015

4-2 Illegal Dumping

This is a very pervasive issue and one that comes with a bit of wry humor attached. There are millions of tons of waste discharged legally, so the illegal dumping seems to be a bit less dangerous, however, when illegal dumping is allowed, it can lead folks to think that any dumping is acceptable. There have been almost as many recovery operations for illegally dumped materials as trips to the woods for me. It seems that every time i go to the wilds, I return with illegally dumped waste. In fact, much of my life, people never thought twice about driving up as close as possible to a ravine or breach hole and throwing all manner of trash out into the environment. Many modern landfills are able to sequester waste much more effectively than in the past, but the unsightliness of refuse continues to be a problem in almost every place people settle or pass through. In addition, there are legal ways to "dispose" of waste that defy logic and even though some are allowed to pump toxic wastes into our drinking water supplies and even though surface waters are also allowed to be used as sewers in many areas, does not mean that we should grow complacent. This is something we all need to be aware of, document and demand clean up. As the cost of disposing of waste increases, the lure for people to dump illegally increases as well and for some the temptation is too great or they think that "just this little bit" won't make a difference. However, in my considerable experience, trash breeds trash and once a single item is placed in an improper resting place, other objectionable things follow. Many a trail has become strewn with rubbish because someone tried to throw a single item beyond their view, down the cliff, only to have it snag on the precipice, before long, you have empty bottles and cigarette butts all around the area. Without exception, pack it out! Whatever waste you leave behind degrades the place forever. a friend, just yesterday, told me the story of having found a beer can in the woods. It was a Bicentennial commemorative can, manufactured in 1976. When I asked him if he disposed of it properly, he laughed and said, "No, I took a picture of it, posted it to my social network, and put it back down, where I found it." Oddly enough, I'm pretty sure that is exactly what he did. Trash, can last for decades at least. One of the things manufacturers say is "It's recyclable." Well, if that is so, then take your waste back and recycle it! Many a trail head gets strewn with disgusting waste only because people are unprepared, lazy, inept, or just plain rude to fellow travelers. In the military, they have a word for cleaning up all trace of human beings, they call it policing. It is well to remember that someone else will pass by this same place and they do not need to see our mess. Only by being ever-vigilant can we hope to reign in illegal dumping, but more so, we need to cultivate in other human beings, the idea that the planet as a whole is a sacred space, deserving of our compassion. After all, our well-being, or lack of it depends on an intact ecosystem able to support our lives. It turns out that the forests really are the lungs of the planet, along with phytoplankton that float in the oceans. The habitat for many of these microscopic creatures who figure so heavily into the atmospheric oxygen equation are having to compete in the worlds gyrae for space with the plastic that is choking the oceans.

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