When lockdown was eased I went on facebook and my news feed was full of litter strewn beaches and beauty spots. I felt anger and despair as I’m sure many of you did. It got me thinking about why people litter and also reminded me of my feelings when people leave their rubbish, in a tied up black bag, in the middle of a field when they leave their camping spot at a festival.
So there’s a few reasons they do this, laziness, thoughtlessness, the bins were full, etc. It infuriates me when the reason is the latter, the bins are full. If they managed to bring all the food and camping stuff with them, why can’t they put the black bag in their car and pop it in their own bin when they get home. Take responsibility for their own rubbish.
The first reason, laziness, well that’s probably the most honest reason and shows that we must stop pandering to our kids and tidying up after them I suppose. It kinda goes along with the second reason of thoughtfulness, when someone is used to others cleaning up after them, they don’t even think whether they should take their rubbish or not. People are so used to being in owned territory, such as a pub or restaurant, where part of the ‘service’ is to be cleaned up after, that when they are in public territory they act the same. Like the natural environment is an place of entertainment, owned and serviced by others.
All this thinking about littering ended with a realisation that society is so disconnected from the land that it’s seen as an amusement park rather than a fundamental part of the living system that we are also a part of. In Maori culture humans are considered equal to and at one with the land, sea and rivers. The idea is reflected in the Maori word ‘ kaitiakitanga’, which means guarding and protecting the environment in order to respect ancestors and ensure its protection for future generations.
So how do we reconnect society with the land? People need access to the land and more importantly responsibility for the land. If people feel responsible and understand their own reliance on the environment for existence, they would take care of it, wouldn’t they?
I really struggle with rubbish, it’s constant onslaught, it’s marketed ‘convenience’, it’s green-washed recyclable or biodegradable status. I’m pretty obsessed with recycling and reusing, that’s why I love permaculture principles of re-using everything you possibly can.
I think we have a chance at festivals to instill a better mindset of taking your rubbish home. At the smaller festivals we work at there is rarely any rubbish left on the fields and some of them don't even have bins. Like Beulah festival in North Yorkshire, held on Lime Tree Farm a conservation site of wildflower meadows, ancient woodlands and wildlife ponds, where the people attending events there are entrusted with looking after the land and leaving it how they found it.
Then there are larger events like The Green Gathering whose policies on litter are that the use of disposable items and production of waste is discouraged and minimised by promotion of reuse, upcycling and repair. Genuine waste is composted or recycled where possible and education is provided on recycling categories and minimising waste to landfill/incineration.
I guess all we can do s influence our personal sphere of society, which for us is the festival circuit. More education, more leading by example and more connection to the land. Always pick up rubbish when you see it, always recycle if possible and of course reduce, re-use and repair.