Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day: The heart that gives, gathers - Marianne Moore

Filling your heart with joy sometimes requires doing things that you would rather not have to do.  Teaching our values and morals to our children, maintaining a vibrant healthy community, requires everyone to contribute.  Our sense of shared obligation and civic virtue support our values, and social norms.  Social practices in shared common life in a community are the heart of a city.  It is not enough to have robust infrastructure like fire, police, and public works departments, not enough to have great schools –teachers, staff, and physical resources. It is not enough to have volunteers to drive garage and bake sales for the benefit of those in need. Those are all part of the affluent and fine fabric of our community. However we need strong and vibrant stitching to piece together that fabric, make it whole, bound as one melded piece of many patterns, colors, and designs. We must all love where we live and who we are, as diverse as we each are, collectively. 

     Ours must not be just a drive through city, or just an end for shopping and dining. Ours must be a community of caretakers, a city of inclusion, and a city willing to take bold steps that contribute to a healthier environment. Let us not confuse name-calling with constructive debate.  Let us not confuse blame with action, to rectify social problems. 

     We have a dirty unhealthy and moral problem in this city. It is not unique to our town nor is ours the most deviant.  We are complacent through lack of observation or disconnected acceptance, or reliance on blaming others and expecting someone else to fix the problem.  One only needs to walk our sidewalks or take a moment to look around the entranceways to our stores, businesses and restaurants to acknowledge counts from 75 to  521 pieces per mile of  littered trash* on our streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and public green spaces.  (The 75 pieces is per my informal survey of year round litter picking in the neighborhood I live in. The 521 piece per mile average count in Vermont is from the Northeast 2010 litter survey conducted by the American Beverage Association. )

     Green Up Day, created in the early 1970’s was a bold call to action to alleviate an eyesore and an environmental blight from our beloved state.  Every first Saturday in May, folks of all ages join in a community cleaning in our city as in other Vermont communities. However, this is not enough. We all must act as stewards of our natural landscape and waterways to maintain the livability of our community year round.  Litter is an All Season Sport, drop a piece you lose a point, pick up a piece, you gain a point. It is an inclusive sport; we need everyone to be a participant.  

     A bold call to action: Develop intolerance for litter. Make ‘litter free’ our social norm and year round ‘clean up’ our shared obligation.

·        Clean up what could make you sick and which harms wildlife. When you walk, carry a grocery bag or a 5-gallon bucket and pick up any littered trash you come upon. Be aware of how you feel when you do that.

·        See litter in a store lot – Use the Clean-up coupon (on right side colum of this site) as a call to action.

·        Ask your town or city representatives for municipally owned and maintained trash containers at high traffic public areas.

·        Be sure your outside trash and recycling containers are covered.

Gather some litter today; nature and your community will benefit.

Happy Valentine's Day
Stuck in Vermont: Valentine Phantom episode (Video)

* 2010 Northeast Litter Survey.