Today was when Iqaluit got itself a good tidying up. It's still not perfect - there really is an obscene amount of litter in the city - but at least a nice dent was made into the mess.
This happens every year around this time. The federal government and the Government of Nunavut give employees part of the morning off and they're encouraged to go around and pick up garbage. Turnout often depends on the weather. Realistically if it's raining you're not getting a big turnout. For that matter, it snowed in town on Monday, so it's not like picking up litter in the snow is all that much more fun.
However, with the temperature around 12C (trust me, that's balmy) and the added incentive of a pair of plane tickets to Ottawa, the turnout was really good this year. I was chatting with organizers (I was on the committee, but others did the majority of the work) and they estimated close to 700 people entered their name for the tickets. And the only way you could do that was to go and pick up garbage. Throw in another 100 or so who just couldn't be bothered waiting in line to get entered into the draw (yes, there are people who will pass up a chance at free plane tickets) and I'd say that number is closer to 800.
Except, to that, you can add another 700 or so students around town who didn't take part in the official clean-up, but did go out and clean around their schools. So I think 1,500 people taking part in the clean-up is a reasonable estimate. It might even be higher. In a community of a little more than 7,000 people, that's a phenomenal turnout.
So I'm happy to see that. However, there are two things I'm not as happy about.
1. I really wish this level of clean-up wasn't necessary every year. Once the snow starts to melt all the garbage that had been buried throughout the winter makes a reappearance and the amounts are staggering. I cleaned up enough cigarette butts today that I vented online I was going to punch the next smoker I met in the mouth, just on general principle.
I don't know if Iqaluit is any dirtier than any other city after winter. I know St. John's is at its worse during spring, what with the rain, drizzle, fog, muck, potholes and litter. Perhaps in Iqaluit there is less grass and trees to hide the litter. I don't know. But god, there did seem to be an overwhelming amount of it today.
I also reserve the right to taser the first bastard I catch littering, just on general principle.
2. The other thing is, I don't understand littering. I really don't. Perhaps it was just beaten into me as a kid. Perhaps there were better programs directed at kids when I was growing up. I recall the St. John's Clean and Beautiful program that worked hard with kids to get them not to litter. I remember CBC running a program getting schools to adopt car wrecks so they could get them towed off to the dump that was phenomenally successful.
But that's just the way I've grown up. I can't conceive of taking a piece of garbage and throwing it on the ground. I'm the guy who takes an ice cream wrapper and stuff it in his pants pocket because there's no garbage can nearby. Or will chase a receipt that slipped out of my hand across a parking lot. That's just who I am.
So I don't get a person that can toss a plastic bag out of the car, or throw a chocolate bar wrapper on the ground or idly cast a pop can away after finishing it. It takes literally no extra effort to hold onto it a bit longer until you can put it away properly. It's a level of laziness, carelessness and thoughtlessness I am unable to conceive of. It's beyond baffling to me.
I know some litter is inevitable. Bags break, you drop stuff and don't notice it...things like that. But there's no way all the garbage picked up today made it to where it was by accident.
It's just one of those deeply frustrating things for me. I'm glad to see so many people out trying to clean up their community today. I just don't know why they were needed in the first place.
1. Isolation - Snow Patrol
2. Dirty life and times - Warren Zevon*
3. Love of the common people (live) - Bruce Springsteen
4. I'm free - The Who
5. Travelling woman - Bat For Lashes