Re­spon­si­bil­ity for what?!

Taxes and death await those who don’t do their bit. Taxes and, even­tu­ally, death, await those who do.

Element - - Green Living Expo - TE RADAR RADAR’S RANT

Dog-poop and lit­ter­ing are as much of a con­cern to people as larger global en­viro-is­sues. So says the find­ings of a re­cent UK study. This is only nat­u­ral. We see lit­ter all around us, and we step in dog poop. Very few people look out­side and say, “Is that the sea that’s cov­ered the lawn? When did that hap­pen?”

The Fabian So­ci­ety, who con­ducted the sur­vey, con­cluded that what was needed to rec­tify this was a pub­lic hol­i­day. Only it wouldn’t be a hol­i­day as such. This of­fi­cially sanc­tioned day-off would be used to rein­vig­o­rate people’s in­ter­est in the state of their lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment. If people care more about their im­me­di­ate sur­round­ings, they ar­gue, they will care more about the big­ger pic­ture. And just to en­sure people don’t bunk off for a long weekend, they sug­gested the day off be held mid­week.

Nat­u­rally many people will ig­nore it, choos­ing in­stead to do what many do on pub­lic hol­i­days and ei­ther start a per­sonal project they’ll never fin­ish, or go to the beach. It could be ar­gued that if they de­lay think­ing about larger is­sues the beach will even­tu­ally come to them.

To my knowl­edge, no can­di­date or party here has called for a pub­lic hol­i­day in or­der to have a bit of a tidy up. Imag­ine the con­ster­na­tion if they did. The air will echo with the sound of people de­rid­ing the no­tion. “Nanny state doesn’t have the right to tell us to tidy up af­ter our­selves, and cer­tainly not af­ter oth­ers!”

“Me? Well I did my GST. Even if the world is sub­merged I’m sure the IRD will still func­tion.”

The irony is that people will go a con­sid­er­able dis­tance out of their way to dis­pose of their refuse. It’s al­most a na­tional pas­time to take a drive some­where pic­turesque and be­foul it for ev­ery­one else by emp­ty­ing the con­tents of your boot into the bush or a creek. A Christchurch study found that 40% of trash re­moved from ur­ban parks was house­hold rubbish that should have been picked up dur­ing kerb­side col­lec­tions. Once it’s in the park it’s no longer their prob­lem, even as the park be­comes an ad-hoc land­fill.

And if you can shrug off the park as some­one else’s prob­lem, then surely you also shrug off car­bon emis­sions, cli­mate change and the im­mi­nent extinction of Maui’s dol­phins.

I can un­der­stand those who ques­tion why we should tidy up if life as we know it is go­ing to end any­way. If it’s not the cli­mate it’ll be some kind of an­tibi­otic-re­sis­tant su­per­bug, or we’ll catch the flu from a chook.

Even I, en­gulfed in a sea of ris­ing de­spon­dency af­ter read­ing re­ports of the im­pend­ing col­lapse of the West Antarc­tic Ice Sheet, couldn’t see the point in fin­ish­ing the chores I had on my lengthy to-do list. Why should I com­plete my GST? Why paint the garage roof? Surely I can just hiff my break­fast dishes onto the lawn and they’ll be cleansed in due course by the salty lap­ping of a ris­ing sea? I’d be bet­ter off haul­ing a mat­tress into the at­tic, then re-watch­ing Kevin Cost­ner’s ex­cel­lent doc­u­men­tary Water­world for pointers on out­fit­ting su­per-tankers as float­ing cities.

But this is the ex­actly the hope­less fa­tal­ism that we must com­bat. While the elec­tion cam­paign rightly fo­cuses on global en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, it would also be nice to see a spot­light on things closer to home. A na­tional day of ser­vice seems a bril­liant idea. A lit­tle com­mu­nity au­ton­omy on a de­clared na­tional day of ser­vice might just bring us all to­gether for a civic spruce up, fol­lowed by a slap-up neigh­bors-a-plate street do.

Me? Well I did my GST. Even if the world is sub­merged I’m sure the IRD will still func­tion.

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