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Don’t Litter (a short fable)

During my time in Morocco I noticed a campaign to fight litter, which included hiring people to sweep the streets, ads on TV about cleaning up the beaches, and installation of public wastebaskets on city streets. But that came later. The first time I was in Fez, I remember walking a whole kilometer with a piece of trash in my hand, because there were no wastebaskets anywhere and I wasn’t willing to toss it onto the street. This is something my grandfather drilled into me as a child. Whenever he saw someone toss garbage on the ground, he would curse the man and tell me what a worthless person he was.

The pictures I posted below reminded me of this, because on the day they were taken, we bought sardines, bread, cookies and soda to take to the beach with us. There were six of us, and after spending some time in the water, we crawled out and lay on the bank in the sun. Our snack demanded ingenuity, because the ring on the sardine tin snapped off, so how were we to open it? After figuring that out, we made sandwiches, shared the cookies and soda, and before long were left with nothing but rubbish. Because of my grandfather’s excellent training, I collected all the wrappers, bottles and tins into a single plastic bag.

As we got ready to leave, I noticed that the garbage was back on the ground again! I spun around and saw Moustafa holding the plastic bag. “What are you doing?” I said as I grabbed it from his hands. I collected every last scrap for the second time. Later he told me that he’d wanted the bag for his wet swimsuit, and hadn’t thought anything about leaving the litter there. Groups like ours had left their melon rinds and crumpled cigarette packs all up and down the bank. But another thing our elders tell us is, “Just because everyone else does it, doesn’t make it okay!”

We took the garbage back to the little grocery where we’d bought our snacks. The owner was a bearded man in traditional dress. Mohamed handed him the sack and asked him to dispose of it for us. He said that I, the foreigner, had insisted we do that. The owner replied that in the several years he’d been running the store, this was the first time anyone had brought garbage back from the river. In the Middle Ages, he said, the Islamic world had been more enlightened than the West. Muslims had passed their knowledge to Europe to spark the Renaissance. Now understanding was flowing in the other direction. He seemed to think it was a shame that Muslims would need an outsider to teach them respect for the environment. But he said it without rancor. Respect for nature is “Islamic” no matter what the source.

Comments

Comment from omarsoft
Time: December 9, 2006, 07:56

You know, respect for nature is very important in islam and cleanliness is the heart of our daily life.
But i know that people do not behave like what they must behave!and i already had lived the situation where no wastebaskets are present,so if it was possible i put what i could toss in mypocket until i find a wastebasket or even until i come back home!
we morrocans are somehow hard to change…
i thaught about appliying some taxes on people who throws’ n tosses things.that will be more convincing and will be a source of empolyment for others..

Comment from B2
Time: December 9, 2006, 08:39

I wrote something about it on one of my posts .. It’s about one day, i had some trash (A Merendina and Raïbi jamila :lol: ) .. And no wastebaskets along 250 or 300 meters … and i was walking with trash on my hands all along that distance … it was emrabassing !

We should start by putting more “CLEAN” wastebaskets on the road … i mean just small ones .. at every 100 or 200 meters .. at least, concious persons will find where to throw trashes ..
And also, we should never stop talking to people (our friends first) about that to change bad habits
..

And as AC/DC said :
“It’s a long way to the top” :-P

Comment from eatbees
Time: December 9, 2006, 15:19

I think this is one of those cases where we should educate each other… I like the way Moroccans look out for each other… if an old man stumbles in Jmaa el Fna there will be people there right away to help him, bring him water and so on… so collecting our litter is part of that idea… and of course the new wastebaskets help a lot. :)

I used to work with a woman whose daughter loved to clean up the beach. She liked it so much, she would go every weekend with plastic bags for collecting trash! I don’t even think she went swimming (in San Francisco the water is too cold) she just picked up things. Now she is studying ecology at the university….

Comment from Magda
Time: December 9, 2006, 15:29

So how is the campaign to fight litter going?
Why do people litter? Is it laziness? Ignorance? One might think, that everybody would enjoy river bank in it’s natural, clean state, and therefore contribute to keeping it that way… But I know it’s not true – and not only in Morocco.

Comment from eatbees
Time: December 9, 2006, 15:37

@ B2 — I just found your comment in my spam queue and recovered it… so that happened to me on your blog, and it happened to you on my blog… maybe our diplomats should get together and write up a mutual recognition treaty!… I will instruct them to give you a permanent visa….

Comment from B2
Time: December 9, 2006, 19:23

Hah ! That’s really freaky !
I will instruct mine too :lol:

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