When legendary local artist, Mogsy, and the Doncaster Fightback crew put out a call for a litter pick in the Nether Hall region we knew we had to lend our support. Fightback are a collection of community activists who follow Gandhi‘s famous maxim:
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
We know these are difficult times, but – as we’ve said again and again in the pages of the Doncopolitan – nothing is ever going to change unless we take it upon ourselves to make (be) that change. Cynicism, negativity, blame-shifting and paternalism (expecting somebody else to do things on our behalf) is all well and good, but don’t pretend for a second that you’re actually doing something about the problems we face, until your ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THE PROBLEM’S WE FACE. As another famous maxim goes (this time from Eldridge Cleaver):
“If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.”
Litter provides the perfect illustration of this. Who doesn’t moan about litter? It is most certainly a blight on our country, but its not an inevitable blight – not if more people were prepared to put their money where their mouth is and get stuck in.
The humble street sweeper is often looked down upon, or, worse still, totally ignored. Which is why every single one of us should walk a mile in the street sweeper’s moccasin’s (or steel toe caps to be more accurate). Picking up the everyday detritus of non-caring humans gives a very rewarding insight into the problem of litter and the attitudes faced by the people who work damned hard battling the problem day in, day out.
The first thing you find out is that it is one of those jobs where everyone thinks they’re an expert.
We were picking on Copley Road when one guy told us that there was a bad patch of litter on the next street. We told him that there were plenty of gloves, bags and grabbers at the Doncopolitan HQ if he wanted to join us. “What?” he said, “You’re the ones getting paid to do the job.” When we explained that we were volunteering our own time to clean up the Nether Hall area he told us that we were doing a very good thing… which was nice, but an extra pair of hands would have been even nicer.
Part of the problem is that we were using equipment which had been kindly supplied by the council, so people naturally assumed that we were working for the DMBC. We turned the high-vis jackets inside out to try and avoid further confusion, but then people thought we were doing ‘Community Payback’. Its a bizarre situation when people can’t pick up litter without other people thinking that they have to either be paid or forced to do so.
One solution might be to have ‘VOLUNTEER’ emblazoned on the back of the jackets of people who believe that only direct action can bring about the changes our town deserves. If the DMBC don’t fancy doing this we might make our own with Donny Fightback and Doncopolitan Civic Service written all over them. If you know of anyone who can help get these made then let us know.
On a more positive note we were regularly joined by shopkeepers of all nationalities and backgrounds who came out to help and tell us about their experiences of the Great British litter epidemic. Lots of passers by were very positive too. A lovely 81 year old gentleman kept us all entertained with tales shady dealings in the area. We were very surprised to find out that there’s a problem with “Sushi dens!”
Some people will read this and argue that they “pay taxes for that, so why should I help”, but most of our essential public services are feeling the pressure due to austerity cuts, not least because 95% of public money isn’t in the hands of people who are accountable to the public. The truth is that – whether you’re an individual, a business or ‘the council’ – this is OUR TOWN and we should all do everything in our power to improve things for ourselves and our children. Apparently we’ve just ‘got our country back’, so why don’t we all muck in to tidy it up?
Don’t worry about putting a road sweeper out of a job either. The sheer scale of the UK’s litter problem is going to keep both the professionals and the volunteers very busy for a very long time. The majority of the trash we collected (and collectively we collected some 20 bags worth over the course of around 5 hours) was made up of tab ends.
Cadmium, arsenic, iron, nickel, copper and manganese are just some of the toxins that are leaching into the environment as a direct result of discarded cigarette butts. This is, of course, not just a UK problem. As I News reported recently, some 5 trillion discarded fag ends are now polluting the world’s oceans. And even if you’re not compassionate about marine life it is worth remembering that these toxins work their way up the food chain so that humans are already consuming the poisons created by somebody, somewhere casually throwing their cigarette on the street. When it comes to throwing rubbish, there’s no such place as ‘away’.
We’ll be doing regular litter picks along with other direct actions for positive change. If you’d like to get involved then please get in touch.