What Littering Says About Us

I don’t know about you but whenever I see a place filled with litter, it evokes images of a world after a devastating war or after a natural disaster.
It is like watching a horror movie where the monster has already done it’s damage.
I see a place filled with despair and apathy; where it’s inhabitants really could not care less. Or have given up.
My mother always says ” usafi waziba umaskini” loosely translated it means “cleanliness hides or covers signs of poverty.”
Walking around town and seeing brand new houses with shiny aluminium sliding windows and trendy pastel colors does not impress me: it is hard to appreciate a beautiful painting when the frame is rotten. It is hard to enjoy an apple when there is a worm around it.
Here is what I believe littering means:
1.  We don’t care about ourselves. Think about it. If we placed any sort of value to ourselves, we would be more careful; more conscientious about how we treat our habitat so to speak.
We would feel that we deserved better; that we are worthy of clean streets and litter free front door walkways.
We would feel we are not any less than others elsewhere in the world who can step out of their homes, and see nothing but well tended lawns, clean neighborhoods and garbage free streets.
2. We don’t care about others. It is nary impossible to care about others if you have no concern for yourself. Why would you worry about the banana peel you are throwing that someone else will step on and slide through to inconvenience or worse- injury? What do you care if the trash you dump will bring about vermin that will spread disease?
3. We don’t believe our land, our earth is our responsibility. We don’t feel we should be held accountable for it nor do we believe it is a priority.
Granted, there are other more ‘pressing’ matters for some of us but what if? What if we adopted a personal code of conduct; held ourselves to a higher standard; that we will pick after ourselves in our public spaces; would that not raise our collective self esteem? Would that not foster some sort of hope that better things are yet to come? Who knows- perhaps even petty crime would go down.
4. We have double standards. We have a cleaning routine for our homes and workplaces but none for our streets and neighborhoods? Indeed the streets and neighborhoods are workplaces for a good percentage of people; we are responsible and so are they.
I remember as a child being shocked when an adult chastised a child for throwing something on the floor of their house.  The words used and I quote: ” kwani hapa ni nje”?  loosely translated ” Do you think that this is outdoors that you can throw things and litter?”
I cringe and seethe and mutter under my breath like a madwoman whenever am outdoors and there is garbage and litter.
” This is wrong on so many levels.”
I keep wondering- at the risk of sounding arrogant and self righteous- am I the only one super infuriated by this?
Have we grown so desensitised to litter, detritus and garbage that we do not even see it anymore?
This Tuesday let us promise we will care for our environment.
We are so much better than what we have become.

Najma Abdusheikh

I am a mother of three, born and bred in Mombasa. I write as a means of navigating through life's laughs and challenges. I see a better world for us but only if we believe ourselves worthy enough to work towards it. Find me on amombasamommy.co.ke

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