I’ve never really understood the allure of sitting on a sand dune about ten metres off the slow lane of the Barracuda Expressway and having a picnic with traffic roaring past. Surely, people, you could find a quiet road and sit ten metres away from that?
But the thing that gets right up my nose is the monstrous mound of miasmic mess that invariably seems to get left behind. I was appalled recently to drive past a group of picnickers in the desert one day, and then to see the unspeakable quantity of garbage that they’d left behind when I drove past a day later. As a desert camper, I am fully aware of how much effort it takes to stick litter in a plastic bag, take that bag back to civilisation, and dump it in a roadside wheelie bin on the way home. That’s in, please, not next to. There really is no excuse for leaving paper and plastic plates, cutlery, tins, bottles, broken tents and crash-damaged kites in the desert where they were dropped. Laziness (with a possible hint of stupidity and a soupçon of arrogance) are reasons; they’re not excuses, and certainly not justification.
I guess there’s an ingrained “someone else will tidy it up” philosophy. This works fine in town where legions of Men In Orange fight the constant battle against fag packets, drink cans and plastic bags that have, for one reason or another, failed to find their way into dustbins. But this doesn’t work in the desert. Bizarrely, some picnickers bag up the rubbish and then leave it behind. Why? Do they expect the binmen to scour the open desert on the off-chance that they’ll find a black bag to collect? Or will some animal find it, open it and then choke to death on a polythene bag?
And then we have periodic “Desert Clean-Up” campaigns in which groups of concerned people show up with the laudable intention of denuding an area of beach or dunes of all rubbish. And thus “someone else will tidy it up” becomes true, which confirms that it’s OK to leave trash lying around.
If a Clean-Up produces a truckful of trash, the event is hailed as a huge success. It isn’t. The fact that the trash was lying around proves the message that “littering is unacceptable” is not getting through. A huge success is when, at the end of the day, the volunteer litter-pickers all come up empty-handed.
I’m not holding my breath.