Thursday, January 07, 2010


One of the wonderful things about living in the Lands of the Sand is that it’s possible to go and picnic or camp in the desert pretty much wherever and whenever you like. The seriously equipped 4x4 fraternity might go so far off the beaten track that they’re almost off the edge of the map where “there be monsters!” Others can and do simply pull off the edge of the road and have their picnic and campfire right next to the motorway.

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.



EyeOnDubai said...

Well said, Mr. G!


Susan said...

arrogance, laziness and also proof that they have never really moved on from the nomadic tribe mentality - 100 years ago most rubbish was biodegradable anyway and by the time your tribe of nomads returned to a particular site, it might be years later, the rubbish had degraded, been eaten by goats or been covered with sand so who cared.

Trouble is the litter has moved with the times but the mentality hasn't.

Jayne said...

Laziness & arrogance........just about sums it up methinks.

nzm said...

It's everywhere - not just in the desert, and certainly not just a UAE problem.

Ever noticed how people can no longer clean up their own messes when leaving the tables in a fast food restaurant?

Germany has a fireworks tradition on New Year's Eve. Fireworks are sold on the prior 2 days, and then at midnight, the masses go out into the cold to let them off. Of course, no one can be bothered to collect the debris, spent fireworks and bottles used for rocket launchers, so it all sits and rots in the snow and wet, waiting for the council workers to clean it up.

I don't understand how people can allow themselves to do it. It's a complete lack of responsibility and social awareness.

Anonymous said...

Aaaawwwwww! Kitties!!! Luv kitties.

Bush Mechanic said...

A stick, used well, can work wonders. Leave your crap on a food hall table in Melbourne and you can get a $100 dollar littering fine. Outdoors, the fines set by local government start a about $200 dollars for single items and go up. Different fines for litter coming off the back of a truck or building sites.

Each day I take a small shortcut into the Techno Park next to one of the Dubai tips near Jebel Ali. Lately, a lot of building rubble and office rubbish is also getting dumped along the track by fly tippers.

Paraglider said...

For what it's worth, Qatar's just the same, except somehow in Qatar litter blends more naturally into the 'scenery'.

Martín said...

wow! you, sir, have an elegant way to put your rage and frustration out.
I completely share your thoughts, even when I don't share your ability to put them in such a polite way, which in my experience, has more chances to find its way to stupid people.
Well done!!!
PD: by the way, in Argentina, as far as I can tell, is about the same. Shame.

A 2 Z said...


I come from planet "Jayne with a why" LOL. Your post is well written and having lived shortly in Qatar I have to agree with you on all points. I was surprised to see how little they care for the environment. I guess they are limited by the notion of going "green" as everything natural there is beige and dry.


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