Protect our City from waste


I’m not trying to single out one person — you can tell because this flyer is from an earlier election — but it illustrates something I think about often. Until civilization came along, there was no such thing as waste. Browsers leave stubble and turds, predators leave bones, and the bacteria handle it all. Monkeys are omnivores and drop lots of stuff, all biodegradable, from their nimble fingers. We are monkeys too, but our fingers and brains are too good at their jobs. We’ve invented stuff the bacteria can’t deal with yet. We drop it all over the place. The human age will be known to future paleontologists as the Age of Hominid Litter.

Watch someone drop litter in the street some time. That casual, automatic act might look like default behavior, what monkeys do as they roam the woods. But the style with which people do it, from their stance to their glance, is learned behavior, a product of culture. They release their trash with panache. You just know that if you called them out, they would be offended. So today Oakland is a shabby city. Too many of its inhabitants don’t see it as a home to care for, just a setting for doin’ shit.

To do otherwise — putting wrappers in pockets or waste receptacles, automatically — can be learned too and done gracefully. I learned it and I simply don’t litter. But can a whole civilization become sustainable, acting with, as Whitman called it, the prudence suitable for immortality?

4 Responses to “Protect our City from waste”

  1. Becks Says:

    I’d like to hope that Oakland can become sustainable and that the majority of us can learn not to litter. It’s so frustrating to see our trashed streets and to see buses treated like garbage cans.

  2. Andrew Says:

    When I was a kid, in the late fifties, movie theaters played trailers with anti-littering messages. I remember scenes of whole truckloads of crap being shoved over the roadside. It impressed me, anyway. Haven’t seen anything like it since, and why not? The heaps of crap are still there, if you walk for two minutes along Grizzly Peak Boulevard or east Redwood Road. Nina Reiser’s body is probably in one of those heaps.

  3. merideth Says:

    The way so many Oaklanders freely litter angers me to the point of distraction. I’ve never lived in any other city where people will just dump bags of take-out trash, cds, glass bottles, full ashtrays and random paper (i’ve seen all of these first-hand) out of their car windows. I just don’t understand the disrespect of assuming that either a. someone else will pick up your trash or b. it’s ok to make our city look like a dump.

  4. Merita Says:

    it’s not just Oakland. Ride a train across country, all’s well and then you get to California–oh my! Is there something wrong with our waste-collection system? Mounds of trash every few yards, some continuous trash lanes. It’s embarrassing, amazing, inexplicable…

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