...One of the positive aspects of social media sites such as Facebook is the fact that every now and then someone shares some “good news” on various sites about local activities that are being held to help the people, places and even the overall well-being of our county.
(Just nit-picking for a second: It sure would be nice if these “feel good” recognitions were also presented to our newspaper and not just on Facebook. But I’m not going to get into that here – that’s for another column.)
For example, I noticed on the “Greene Co Pa Chit Chat News, Events” page that various outlets such as Waynesburg University and the Waynesburg Moose Lodge donated their time to help clean up trash that had been littered along local roads.
Those who participated in these clean-up initiatives should be given a big round of applause, as should the many local folks who help each year during the annual “Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful” campaign.
But honestly, it stuns and saddens me that these initiatives have to take place at all in our rural neck o’ the woods. We are not a large and over-populated area, or one that has to deal with hundreds of thousands of people traveling on our roads every day. I guess it’s just my opinion, but a small area such as ours shouldn’t have a littering problem.
But we do.
According to information provided by Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Inc., which holds the annual Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania program, during the 2017 initiative 355 volunteers removed 20,460 pounds of trash from local roadways. The year before, 363 volunteers cleaned up 34,040 pounds of trash, And in 2015, 316 volunteers removed 34,660 pounds of trash.
So, let’s recap: Between 2015 and 2017, over 89,000 pounds of garbage was cleaned up from our roadways.
While it’s obviously great that several hundred volunteers took time out of their busy schedule each year to help out, I wonder how much more trash would have been picked up if there were more volunteers. And no matter how nice the number of volunteers is, those numbers pale in comparison to how much waste has been collected.
More than 89,000 pounds. And yes, I’m aware that that number probably doesn’t compare to large, more metropolitan areas. But it doesn’t change the fact that we as a county should be very, very ashamed of that number.
A personal note: My wife and son and I live in a remote country area where there are not many neighbors but admittedly there is a highly trafficked road nearby. Our closest neighbor has many acres of land and he gave us permission to walk along his property for hikes, which is my son’s greatest hobby.
We spend hours walking along trails, skipping rocks in creeks, searching for “lost treasure” in woods and pretending to be fearless explorers. Everything about these excursions is great … We get lots of exercise, we’re away from the noise and hectic world of a more congested area, we’re outside exploring nature, and we’re bonding as a family.
Very recently, we ventured even further into our neighbor’s property to explore “uncharted territory,” as we discovered a stretch of woods we had never seen before. We were excited about what we would find, as the possibilities of discovering another world were right around the corner.
Sadly, the further we explored, the quicker our excitement turned to dismay, then to outright anger. This patch of woods, not too far from a roadway, was disgustingly filled with garbage.
We discovered too many empty beer and soda bottles and cans to count. Endless paper bags from fast food joints are strewn along the woods as far as the eye could see. Giant two-ply garbage bags – many of them opened by animals or Mother Nature – filled with trash can be spotted everywhere, including in a nearby creek. There are old tires, car parts, empty cans of paint, plastic bags (empty and filled), and enough cigarette butts to fill up a giant warehouse.
There are dirty diapers, old newspapers, shards of broken glass, empty plastic bottles, empty cardboard boxes … there was even an air conditioner, a refrigerator door and other broken electronic devices carelessly tossed. It was a despicable, disgusting sight.
I couldn’t believe it. I quickly got my son out of there, and the long walk back to our house was silent, with the exception of a simple comment from my five-year-old, who broke the silence with a question that reeked of sadness: “Daddy, why would people do that to such a beautiful place?”
I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to say what the first thought that came to my mind was, which is this: “Because some people are careless, thoughtless jerks who have no respect and just see the world as their own personal garbage pit.”
Really, if you are someone who does this, then you should be ashamed of yourself, and you should take a long, long look in a mirror and try to reflect on what kind a person you are. If you’re someone who thinks nothing of tossing out your garbage while driving or going to specific areas just to dump your trash, then you are an embarrassment to the human race.
Look, it shouldn’t have to be said, but here goes: We need to take care of our planet. We need to always be thinking about what kind of world we’re going to be leaving behind for our children and grandchildren, and all future generations. It’s bad enough we have to deal with air, water and noise pollution … but plain and simple garbage pollution is something that we can control. And we should do just that. Not just for us. For the future.
So, when the weather gets nicer I will be heading out to that patch of woods on my neighbor’s property with garbage bags and doing my part to make that little piece of Greene County beautiful once again.
And I won’t be doing it for me … I’ll be doing it for the kids – whether it’s my kid or other kids in the future — who shouldn’t have to be walking through endless piles of garbage when they want to be fearless explorers.
If anyone would like to volunteer to help me clean up this area, please message me on Facebook, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, give me a call at 724-852-2251, or stop in at the Messenger office, located at 82 W. High St. in Waynesburg. And, for more info about Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Inc. and/or the 2018 Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania program, call 877-772-3673, ext. 113.
And for God’s sake — and for our county’s sake — whoever you are, wherever you live, please think twice about carelessly, thoughtlessly tossing out your trash. It’s just simply the right thing to do.
We’re better than this. All of us.