Along my path I’ve often come across people who question why I’m doing what I do – or they may admire the task of going plastic free and picking up plastic from the beach, but they admire it from a slight distance.
The common phrases are:
“Oh good on you – I’ve considered doing that but then I thought what difference can I realistically make? The problem is so huge”.
“Oh I take care of my own rubbish, you should really target the litterbugs – if they know you’ll pick it up they’ll just keep littering”.
“This is the responsibility of the businesses. Why should you clean up their mess?”
And my personal favourite:
“Why do you bother doing that? More rubbish will just wash up tomorrow”.
Now, all of those queries can be answered individually, quite easily – because my personal experience has shown me that one person’s journey CAN make a big difference, litterbugs DON’T suddenly get a conscience just because you stop picking up their litter, beach clean ups DO make a difference and we DO have a collective responsibility to address waste.
There is one fact that, for me, overrides all of these, though – and it’s one that’s often overlooked:
Picking up litter is, actually, much more about you than anything around you.
It’s not about whether you think you are, solely, fixing the problem. It’s not about whether the rubbish is yours or not. It’s not about whether you will influence wide change. It’s not about the change you make ‘out there’ at all.
It’s about the change you are making inside of yourself, and continue to make inside of yourself every time you take responsibility for our collective impact upon this planet. It’s understanding that we are in an abusive relationship with Mother Earth, and we are the abuser – and regardless of what the law says, we can, and must, do better. Not just for her, for ourselves.
Picking up rubbish is an act of self-redemption.
I had roughly 20 years of irresponsible consumption before I kicked my consciousness into high gear. That’s 20 years of investing in polluters by purchasing their goods, 20 years of creating unsustainable levels of waste, 20 years of treading heavily on Papatūānuku.
I have a lot to atone for.
But every time I make a better purchase, every time I repurpose, or reuse, or recycle… and especially every time I pick up a piece of litter, I feel like I’m getting a little bit closer to where I need to be.