While everyone else is thinking about or analysing the recently read 2018–19 budget and looking at the different ways it will affect them, I prefer to deal with the decades-old problem of citizens’ attitude to keeping the environment clean.
I remember quite clearly when the family returned to Trinidad after growing up in the US Virgin Islands for ten years. My eldest son, then only ten, within days of being back, asked: “Why do people throw things out of car windows so frequently?”. I was embarrassed and ashamed but gave him some cock-and-bull story about people not truly understanding about their environment.
That was some four decades ago and nothing has changed. As a matter of fact, it has become much worse. The advent of plastic containers of all sorts—drinks, detergents, non-returnable bottles and the influx of the many types of styrotex and see-through plastic food boxes and cups together with storage receptacles.
In addition, the various constituency Corporations display a total lack of understanding of their responsibility when it comes to the environment. Long ago there were men responsible for keeping the slipper drains clean and were swept every morning. That is no longer the norm.
What about when drains are cleaned? The rubbish is placed neatly on the edge of the roadway for trucks to remove, but the trucks’ coming doesn’t take place for several days. By that time, it is either all back in the drains or barely perceptible on the roadsides.
Even now as we speak cuttings, branches and a variety of disposable items litter our streets and have been for weeks at a time. I can only speak about the Piarco Corporation because that’s where I reside. I have seen trucks on several occasions choose which heap to pick up and which to leave for another time.
A friend of mine on Ragbir Street in St Augustine says she and neighbours have not seen the cuttings trucks in weeks. These contractors are paid millions of dollars.
So, we see that our indifference to dealing with our environmental problems is a combination of ignorance and irresponsibility. Ignorance because our selfishness or don’t-care attitude is responsible for the way we treat our vulnerable surroundings by littering at will. Irresponsibility because the people in authority do not ensure that the cleaning needed to be done is in fact done and done well.
Is this situation a lack of education? I don’t think so. Remember “Keep a clean scene” decades ago? This successful campaign lacked nothing and for a short while the scene was in fact kept very clean. But the campaign was not kept up and the new generations slipped back into maltreating our environment. Blocked drains and water courses wreaking havoc in the city and country areas now take a heavy toll on residents.
Some effort is now being made to rid the country of styrotex and plastics. Is it a case of being too little, too late? What about land developers working on the hills above the capital city who care very little, if at all, about how their various developments would affect the capital city? I think not. What about the authorities who give permission and pass plans for these developers? Do they consider themselves custodians of our little piece of God’s bountiful earth? I think not.
Although I feel mine is a lonely voice crying in the wilderness and in the midst of wealth which can buy almost anything in this blessed land, I will still appeal to the authorities to educate our children about the place in which they live and to the authorities, I will beg them to remember they are only passing through.