Cleaning the Ego With the Fight Against Littering
Learning to Remember My Forgotten Neighbourhood Through Community Clean-Ups!
It’s never been cooler to be focused on being clean, and those who create the wave are often less noticed than those who choose to run on it. While the planet spins at ridiculous speeds through an unforgiving cosmos, we are caught trying our best to stand still, take pause, and enjoy the moment. Unfortunately, in our efforts to do this, we forget about our spherical creator and the accumulation of trash the human race has dumped across Earth.
Personally, I find much solace in doing daily clean-ups in my neighbourhood three times per week throughout the year and five times per week during the summer months. While the last two decades have created a renewed trend and cool-factor around environmental sustainability and saving the Earth, perhaps it’s important to consider the notion that no impact is too small. Understanding the principles of greenhouse emissions, the recyclability of common objects, or the meticulous balance of biodiversity are some of the important focal points of learning as we learn to be more ‘green’.
I live in what is commonly known as a ‘priority neighbourhood’ in Scarborough, Ontario. It is given this label due to high concentrations of poverty, food insecurity, organized crime, and limited resources. In stating this, the accumulation of trash and litter is inevitable given the lack of care and compassion circulating through my block! I look at littering as a symptom rather than a problem of human selfishness. Combined with impediments to self-esteem and pride, I find our collective ambivalence for the health of the planet is similar to the lack of care we often put into our own lives. Eating clean is often as challenging as keeping the ecosystem clean, as we often feel inundated with other responsibilities and motivation that have little to do with what really matters in our lives and universe…But I digress. Simply put, the consistency behind these clean-ups is an exercise in trying to invigorate spirit, pride, and ownership of our home that desperately needs to heal.
One of the most dynamic and important aspects of these clean-ups is the way in which I try to engage the community in this work. Social media and pop-culture has a great impact on building education and awareness around global issues and causes but also brings some drawbacks as well. Most notably, is arguably the association created between civic engagement and broad narcissism. Specifically, many people are buying into the dogma of if real work is to be done, it must be broadcasted, filtered, captioned, and uploaded to be deemed legitimate. My issue with this is then the work we are doing for someone else or our planet becomes more driven by the immediate way the action stimulates our own ego. Rather than broadcasting my clean-ups with selfie-framed Instagram stories, I try to time my clean-ups with the frequency of evening walks or foot traffic so that I can personally outreach and engage potential new cleaners.
Thus far, I have been successful in securing three people who are local community residents who attend clean-ups with me. As I write this, the weather in Ontario is definitely improving. The chaos and uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought about a shift in priorities and a lack of care for the environment as PPE, single-use plastics, and sanitization tools litter parks, roads, and sidewalks all around me. I can only imagine what this means for the waters. Looking ahead to the summer to come for 2021, I am ambitiously focused on growing the team of local Scarborough Village community cleaners; as well as I am dedicated to maintaining the aforementioned high frequency of clean-ups.
To ride the wave is certainly daring, courageous, and empowering. To create the wave however, involves confronting vulnerability, confronting insecurity, and confronting ego to bravely imagine a drastically better tomorrow.
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