One of my great interests, one could say passions, is the subject of thinking. Over the last ten years I have studied cognitive behavioral therapy and I’m fascinated by how we think. And I’m starting a series of exploring why we think the way we do. It will be intermittent when I think of another one to write about. But Part II is tomorrow if you enjoy part one. If not, come back Wednesday.
Today I’d like to introduce the topic of littering, and specifically, why do we think it’s ok. Now of course, everyone doesn’t think it’s ok, but it’s such a part of our culture that it falls into the category of “we.” Now to being with I consulted the internet to see if there was any information on the history or origin of litter. Wiki.answers.com posted the best answer as “I think it started when plastic was invented but in 1515 – Strafford-upon-Avon court records show that Shakespeare’s father was fined for ‘depositing filth in a public street’. It doesn’t say what kind of filth was deposited in the street so we don’t know if it came out of him. But the answer about plastic is fair if you take into consideration the reasoning that litter begins when the item that’s thrown down is not biodegradable. Everything else thrown down before that disappeared so it didn’t matter. At least that seems to be the logic there.
The answer also goes on to surmise that litter originated during the Industrial Revolution as higher concentrations of people moved to the cities and there was more waste. This makes sense as well, especially when you take into consideration that there was mud in the streets and horses dumping their wastes right there in public. We figured if the horses could drop their wastes on the streets then why can’t we? And the horses probably thought the same thing of each other; “you’re not gonna hold it, neither am I.”
I like this, because it brings up a point about human nature: entitlement. One guy thinks, “hey, the horse can do it so can I.” Then the next guy thinks, “hey you’re gonna throw your trash so can I.” And then we’re off. Why should anyone pick up their garbage or wait until they reach a place to dispose of it if the next guy’s gonna throw his? It doesn’t matter cause it’s already dirty.
So you do it, I can do it, why should I be any different?
And it all comes down to lazy. It’s much easier to toss that cigarette out the window then have to pull that ash try out of the car, walk to the garbage, dump it, and then have to walk all the way back to the car. That gum wrapper in my pocket is causing so much weight it is creating undue strain on my back and joints. Somebody might be able to take this soda can to the recycling and get money for it.
Do you know when I think the history of littering began? When they used to carry the royalty in those little beds on the shoulders of four men. And one of the royalty threw a chicken bone onto the street. And there was no meat on it and some poor sucker thought “if they can throw something of no value onto the street so can I.” And so it began.