In many parts of California, the streets and sidewalks are piled high with garbage.
As it is my hometown state, I should know. On a heavy day, a relaxing walk can
quickly turn into one in which you’re dodging debris almost at random. You might
find yourself jumping over cartons and dried dogshit while trying not to let that
food wrapper coil itself around your calf. If one stands on a high spot above
downtown Los Angeles, they might mistake the city for the world’s largest landfill.
Suppose you’re inside of this landfill, and with trash in hand. The natural thing to
do would be to throw the trash on the ground right below your feet. The action
would be as carefree as if you had walked up to a waste container.
This perception stems not only from the experience of living and sloshing and
mucking through these streets; indeed, studies show that some of the dirtiest cities
in the US can be found in California. So if you were so convinced that you were
inside of a genuine landfill, the urge to throw your trash on the ground would
likely be forgiven by everyone unpersuaded by delusionary labels, like that of the
Of course, California is neither a “golden state” nor a giant landfill. Instead, it’s a
semi-Communistic hellhole, as well as being an enervated limb on the body of
America. Luckily, I’ve recently fled that horrible place, making for the greener and
freer (and hotter) pastures of Arizona. But, alas, every month I must make a
weekend-long return to my former state, per court orders.
For years, living in California, I’ve been an avid litterer. It’s a bit of a reflex. I
didn’t really think of it at all, aside from the quickest of glances to see if the police
were around. It’s done with such ease: trash in hand; trash on the ground; walk or
drive away. And my conscience doesn’t ring with the faintest twinge of guilt.
However, recently my littering habit has been much more deliberate – something I
do as an act of rebellion, disgust, and hatred. Since I can’t burn the whole state
down, the most I can do is saturate the streets with my wrappers, bags, and bottles.
In the back of my mind, I believe that every little scrap gets me that much closer to
seeing the state’s total downfall. So instead of merely tossing the trash casually
onto the ground, these days I throw it down fiercely, as though I were bludgeoning
the whole society with my refuse. Immature? Sure it is, but such are the times
we’re living in, when decorum, likewise, has also been discarded down the gutter.
As an addict, I can rationalize my habit in several different ways. For instance, soon
after making the move, I would always ceremoniously toss a few items out my
window immediately upon crossing the border. But now I figure that: nobody
would see it in the desert. There’s so little out here; small towns and trucker
outposts. And why blemish land that has yet to be desecrated by the building of
metropolises? Therefore, I now wait until I arrive in the counties of, first San
Bernardino, and then Los Angeles. Then the trash flows out of my windows as if
the garbage collector had forgotten to close up his container.
This compromise was still met with disapproval. My family didn’t like it. Friends
on Facebook and in real life both offered strong criticisms. Impenitently, I would
then resort to charging them with bigotry, telling them that, as a native Californian,
this was just part of my culture. “How dare you insult my culture!” I would retort.
It’s said that all cultures should be respected, so why shouldn’t the California
But my critics do have one valid point: my trash does not stay in the gutters and
streets; it flows out into the ocean – the Pacific Ocean, for those who have never
seen a map. And what do the fish have to do with my private beef? Unlike sewage – what goes down your sinks and toilets – stormwater is not treated or cleaned. One can think of “stormwater” every time you look underneath a curb and see a storm drain: what goes down there eventually ends up in the ocean.
The onus to keep it free of debris, therefore, is on…well, me. And you. And the
homeless guy you just saw, whose condition you’ll blame on capitalism. After all,
when the homeless litter, it’s only a chain reaction stemming from external
circumstances far out of our control.
Depressing facts also start adding up. In 2016, the United States generated the most
waste in the whole world. According to a report by the Associated Press about a
study published in Science Advances, between 2.7% and 5.3% of that waste was
mismanaged – “not burned, place in landfills or otherwise disposed of properly.”
Plastic products seem to be the main focus here, because, while plastic is
ostensibly recyclable, many plastic products never get recycled. Yet we live in a
plastic world. Plastic – which is oil – is ubiquitous, and is perhaps why the average
person consumes thousands of plastic particles every year.
The same study in Science Advances estimated that some 560,000 to 1.6 million
tons of U.S. plastic waste “likely” finds its way into our oceans, making the U.S.
the third-worst “plastic polluter.” The U.S. used to export a great deal of its plastic waste over to China, but a few years back, the Chinese prohibited dirty plastics, that as a way to scale back its own pollution. Now we’re trying to dump our trash onto Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, according to the SierraClub.
All of this garbage has to lead to the freakish creation known as the “Great Pacific
Garbage Patch,” a massive island of trash, twice the size of Texas, which floats
adrift in our oceanic beyond. This is a monstrous testament to mankind’s endless
producing and consuming and disposal. As for my home state, communities in
California are trying to do their part by spending roughly half a million dollars a year –
collectively – to clean up the streets and gutters, per a 2013 report by the Natural
Resources Defense Council.
Guilt at last: I have participated in the destruction of the ecosystem! Yet no matter
how much Californians are bilked, their tax dollars will never buy a shovel or mop
large enough to clean up all the trash they throw on the ground. So, again, the
responsibility is largely on us, the public. Suddenly, the old adage echoes in my
mind like an empty beer can tossed down an alley: “Be the change you wish to see
in the world.” This means bettering one’s self, which is right in line with my brand
Well, believe me when I tell you that have not littered one single time in my new
state. This is because I have respect for Arizona, the streets of which are
comparatively cleaner. It’s a different class of citizens, I reason. Then why can’t I
help myself in California? Why does the “imaginary line” turn me into a Mr.
Hyde? The gutters almost cry out for my garbage. The state is just so moribund.
Leaving trash on these streets is a lot like taking the wristwatch off the corpse of
your worst enemy. I could try to control myself, but even if I had properly disposed
of my trash, it would make no dent in the damage that’s already done.
So who should start cleaning California up? As mentioned a second ago, the
the homeless situation in California is dreadful, as the state has the third-highest rate of
homelessness in the country. Homeless encampments are notorious for their
abundance of garbage, and if the authorities and green thumbs really cared about
the littering issue, they would want to clean out those many encampments.
Heartlessness! Heresy! Those are human beings! Where would we put them? I’m
not completely sure, but wherever it is, it would likely be cheaper than what we’re
currently spending on cleaning up the oceans.
In fact, the effort seems to be the inverse: that they’re trying to produce more waste
in the streets. Consider the mask mandates. When the pandemic started, California
was one of the first to implement lockdowns – and mask mandates. Two years
later, masks are still required for most indoor settings.
The results? No need for Sherlockian powers of deduction. Disposable facemasks
are now found all over the coastal regions. A December 2021 report from
EcoWatch tells us that “disposable face masks littered in the environment
increased by nearly 9,000 percent from March to October 2020.” The masks, too,
are made from plastic. Some 29,000 tons of this stuff is estimated to be floating in
the world’s oceans. Don’t be surprised if Anthony Fauci tells us that those masks
are helping to keep the sea life safe from the virus.
“Then just throw your masks in the trashcan,” I’ll then hear. If masks have any
utility whatsoever – which I now doubt – then they should probably be worn once
and then thrown away. Imagine how many masks one would go through in a day,
or a week. Has the state unleashed an army of mask-collectors onto the streets? I
don’t think it has. If it’s inconvenient for them to pick it up, it’s more convenient
for me to throw it down. Likewise, for everyone else. Maybe I’ll just start
identifying as a homeless man, that way all my littering will be excused away.
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