Indoor litter amounts to a form of pollution

I hate litter, whether it’s having to clean the cat litter box, dealing with stray kittens people drop off “out in the country” from an unwanted litter, or picking up fast food bags tossed into my ditch next to the kittens. Those who litter dirty the rights of those who don’t.
Iron-Eyes-CodyThe issue of American litter was first nationally addressed back in 1953, with the formation of the “Keep America Beautiful” non-profit organization. Its main focus was litter prevention, waste reduction/recycling and community greening and beautification. My focus has always been on the first two, as I stink when it comes to greenery and/or beautifying anything.
When I was in grade school, “Keep America Beautiful” introduced its 1971 anti-pollution and littering campaign with a memorable TV commercial. Buckskin-clad actor Iron Eyes Cody portrayed a silent Native-American stoically paddling a canoe down a rural waterway strewn with man-made debris, gliding into a smoggy harbor with ships and factories belching smoke, and landing on a litter-covered beach.
William Conrad’s voiceover intoned, “Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country. And some people don’t. People start pollution. People can stop it.” The commercial ended with a close-up of a tear running down the cheek of the silent Indian, caused by America’s careless abuse of the environment.
That commercial nearly moved me to tears, although I made fun of it regularly in the company of my friends. To that point in life, I had never been much of a “litterbug,” a word popularized by the anti-litter campaign. But afterward, I became violently opposed to littering and hated litterers. Mind you, this was even before I had a yard they could trash with kittens, empty cigarette packs and depleted energy drink cans.
I reared children who react similarly. When they see littering, they go ballistic and start listing multiple forms of torture that are too good for anyone who would leave that kind of mess for someone else to pick up. Unless that someone is their mom.
The online Oxford Dictionary defines litter as “Untidy with rubbish or a large number of objects left lying about.” Wikipedia’s litter entry shovels deeper: “Litter consists of waste products that have been disposed improperly, without consent, at an inappropriate location. … The presence of litter invites more littering.” Amen!
When I ask my children to define litter, they say it’s OUTDOOR strewn-about crap. Presumably, this is to rule out their own indoor messes that could easily fit the all-points bulletin description of “a large number of objects left lying about.”
If I had a dollar for each cellophane microwave popcorn bag wrapper left beside the microwave instead of walked eight whole feet over to the kitchen trash can for disposal, I would be able to afford a servant who could personally pop for us whenever the urge struck.
This pales in comparison to the ant-attracting (during warm weather) properties of open boxes of sugar-coated cereal and Pop-Tart wrappers found behind couches and under beds. Surely Iron Eyes Cody would have not just a tear, but murder in his eye if he spotted price tags and other packaging from new clothing hastily torn off and left wherever they might land. Cultural anthropologists might someday rightly hypothesize it as a ritualistic ingratitude ceremony.
When confronted with this slovenly disrespect for both home and vehicular environments, my children simply shrug and tell me I’m overreacting. If only I had my hands on one of the Indian’s canoe paddles at those moments!
These same children became incensed when on a road trip I tossed an apple core out the window of my (already indoor-littered by them) vehicle, into a swamp. “Mom! You can’t do that, it’s LITTERING!”
A New England littering study performed in 2010 identified 95% of American litterers as under the age of 55, with 78% of them male. Clearly, I’m not gender-prone to littering and am aging out of it. Things don’t bode as well for my son, for whom the study justifies the Pringles can he tossed back empty into the pantry: “The Devilish demographics made me do it!”
Oh yeah? Well, “People start pollution. People can stop it.”

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