Occupy Conundrum: Maybe it’s time to occupy tourists—or garbage

Close your eyes. Imagine yourself at your favorite outdoor spot. Maybe it’s a national or state park. Maybe it’s somewhere else that only you know about. Hear the sounds of the birds, insects, water… visualize the pristine beauty… smell what’s in the air… feel the air on your skin. Take a deep breath and open your eyes. Now look at this:

 

 

This is a minor bit of trash that I saw while at one of the state’s most beautiful, pristine locations (I’m leaving off the name because this happens everywhere). I could have photographed more and multiple bags were found near overflowing trash receptacles and toilets, but I didn’t want to dirty-up my camera (and frankly, the sight made me a bit ill). I also didn’t want to disgust my more sensitive readers with the way the bathrooms were abused—I would have rather peed in front of all those strangers rather than use the toilets.

While looking around at the landscape, I couldn’t help but notice that tourists are slobs. They seem to have no respect for the land, visitor’s centers or public places. And yet, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the Occupy protestors and their refuse at the encampments. What I don’t hear is anyone griping about tourists leaving the natural world a mess. I was, and still am, incensed, at the carelessness and hypocrisy I witnessed. Dirty diapers? Plastic bags of garbage? Drink cups (from corporate entities, no less) neatly lined up on the can (how ironic)? And these people DROVE into the area. Which means they could have driven themselves and their crap back out when they discovered that the trash receptacles were full. But no, these ordinary, everyday non-occupying tourists leave messes in their wake and it’s okay? Please. It’s not okay for anyone to leave a mess a behind. Leaving trash outside is akin to leaving trash in someone else’s home. Unfortunately, with the exception of raccoons, most of the inhabitants of the outdoors don’t have opposable thumbs to clean up after the visitors leave.

Now that my rant is finished, here’s my plea: Occupiers, if you are reading this and your encampment really is a mess, clean it up and show the world why you are better equipped to run this country, make the earth a healthier place to live, and that you really do care about what goes into the air and water. Be the better example—the world is watching. I want to be proud to call myself one of the 99%.

And if you’re one of the guilty that leave trash somewhere you shouldn’t, risking the flora and fauna of the land, consider yourself chastised and leave an area at least as clean as you found it. Please respect the earth—8.7 million species live on it.

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