Man is a blind, witless, low brow, anthropocentric clod who inflicts lesions upon the earth. ~ Ian McHarg ~
It’s a Sunday, which in Seychelles means a large number of people have dressed in their best and wandered off to church. Everyone attending will be spick-and-span in well-laundered and neatly pressed garments, no few carrying a sifon soaked in cologne to fragrantly wipe away any dampness that may arise from the heat. Children will be fresh and tidy, scrubbed and anointed with smell-good powder and hair wrangled into neat dos.
If personal cleanliness is next to godliness, the Seychellois are close neighbors. Most shower at least twice a day and even work clothes are washed and dried and ironed. School children turn up every morning in crisp, clean uniforms toting rucksacks that have been scrubbed clear of dust, dirt and detritus. (Even before electricity was widely in place and washing machines became common household items, Seychellois women were assiduous in their scrubbing, either in streams or at concrete tables on which dirt was lathered, pounded and scraped away.) Gardens are swept. Houses are dusted and mopped and scoured.
It’s a common after-church activity to meet with friends and family for a picnic on a nearby beach. These are no small affairs. We’re not talking a basket with a few sandwiches and some munchables. No. A Seychelles Sunday picnic comes complete with a half-barrel barbecue and grill, tons of food — including at least one ginormous fish — loads of drink and a generator attached to fridge-sized speakers to make sure everyone within a mile gets to ‘enjoy’ the far-too-loud-and-distorted ‘music’ of choice for the day to truly be worthy the title ‘Sunday’.
A contrariety that can’t be ignored rises when the Monday morning sun illuminates the beaches and reveals the undeniable fact that the scrubbed, cleaned, spotless, unsoiled, pristine, laundered, squeaky clean, as-clean-as-a-whistle Sunday morning folks’ idea of being in proximity to godliness doesn’t travel and personal responsibility for cleanliness doesn’t stretch beyond the clothes on their backs and the garden gate. When the party is over, the garbage is left where it lies.
And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminum can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate, and this was good because Man could then take his automobile and buy all his food in one place and He could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use. And soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminum cans and paper plates and disposable bottles and there was nowhere to sit down or walk, and Man shook his head and cried: “Look at this Godawful mess.” ~Art Buchwald
Takeaway boxes, bottles, plastic everything, used condoms and syringes … nasty shit of all sorts … litter this beautiful island like oozing carbuncles on a syphilitic. “Embellishment Teams” may sweep the roadsides and blow leaves around, but cleanups of rivers and beaches are left to the one “Clean up the World Day” per year.
Responsibility: A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
It’s not at all uncommon to see tidily-dressed kids jettison crisp wrappers, plastic bottles and empty tins along the road or chuck them into the bush. It is also common to watch their school teachers do the same as they make their way home.
Rural families often have a special place in the forest to toss their garbage which, of course, mounts up over years of being a depository for everything from dirty nappies to rusted refrigerators, from dead animals to dead batteries.
The contrast between neat and tidy homes occupied by neat and tidy people and the amount of refuse that gathers is as frightening as it is confusing. Did no one read “The Little Prince”?
“It’s a question of discipline,” the little prince told me later on. “When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
After heavy rains, the trash that has collected in rivers, streams, gutters and bush makes its way … where? … to the beach, of course, then into the sea.
We’re treating the oceans like a trash bin: around 80 percent of marine litter originates on land, and most of that is plastic. Plastic that pollutes our oceans and waterways has severe impacts on our environment and our economy. Seabirds, whales, sea turtles and other marine life are eating marine plastic pollution and dying from choking, intestinal blockage and starvation. Scientists are investigating the long-term impacts of toxic pollutants absorbed, transported, and consumed by fish and other marine life, including the potential effects on human health. ~ National Resources Defense Council ~
An EU-funded project completed years ago to provide safe disposal of toxic materials and heavy metals sits behind a well-tended chainlink fence, and although the grass is cut regularly and air conditioning units grace a building on the site not one bit of sea-killing material has ever been deposited there, so all trash that is actually collected … and, yes, we do have a trash collection service that empties the roadside bins regularly … goes to the landfill, a purpose-built porous island on the seafront.
The Native American idea that ‘we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children’ seems to be interpreted to mean ‘those leaking batteries our grandfather threw in the bush will do just fine beside the baby’s poopy diapers’.
The magnificence of mountains, the serenity of nature – nothing is safe from the idiot marks of man’s passing. ~Loudon Wainwright
Photo credits: Karine le Brun