“Why the obsession with litter?” This is a question I occasionally get from friends, usually after describing the most recent Community Clean Up or explaining why I am boycotting a particular brand because I am sick of seeing their wrappers (Cadbury’s, I’m looking at you). It’s a question I even ask myself sometimes.
The short answer: Litter serves as a barometer for how cared for—or not—a community is. By doing my bit to improve the appearance of my local patch, I hope to make a positive change and stem the tide of anti-social behaviour.
This is often illustrated by the “broken windows” theory, of how small factors can set social norms, allowing disorder to develop and spread. For example, this broken fence in Pewsham Park has become a litter magnet. Litter, in turn, often breeds graffiti. Now we have three signs that an area is uncared for. With this trifecta present, what is to stop other anti-social behaviour from flourishing?
I regularly write about the importance of responsibility, and how if everyone is willing to share the load, we would be able to get so much accomplished. It’s for this reason that I get frustrated when people always point their finger at the Council, expecting them to do more and more with less and less money. And yet there is only so much that I as an individual can do, or we as a community group can take on.
This particular problem area was originally flagged during our first Pewsham Park Community Clean Up in June, and again in October. It’s areas such as this where stronger intervention is needed: could the land owner be made to keep the fence in good repair, or fined to raise the money to replace it? Is there a process in place for safety or code enforcement? What can be done to make sure that it’s third time lucky and that this underlying problem is solved?