Pollution of any kind is humanity's crime upon nature. Whether it is the air we breathe, the water we drink or the environment we inhabit- pollution affects both human beings and the Earth's biosystems. The violence within our own species withstanding, I do not believe that there is a greater measure of human arrogance than the destruction of the earth and its resources.
In this discussion, I will take a leave of absence in my attack of corporations, since their environmental neglect in the name of shareholder profits is already notoriously spoken for. Although I may return to share the extent of this neglect in a future column, this notion is well documented even if the penalties have been laughable.
I will be specific in this discussion of pollution, narrowing my scope to the smokers that litter our streets and sidewalks with their cigarette butts. I find this to be a disturbing practice that, from the looks of our street corners, is either legal, rarely enforced or perhaps even encouraged. To view this inartistic display for yourself, look at the road and sidewalks around you the next time you are stopped at an intersection.
Some estimates put the amount of cigarette butts littered each year at several trillion. This easily makes cigarette butts the most littered item in the world. One at a time, these tiny butts test our understanding of the impact made by a little pollution every day. Moreover, because of the size and frequency, it is often overlook or ignored as individuals often let each other ‘off the hook' rather than express displeasure over such a ‘menial' crime.
My annoyance surrounding this issue is two-fold. My first issue is the thought process, or lack thereof, when someone throws a cigarette butt out of his or her car window. Is there no community value for a clean environment? And whom exactly does these individuals believe will be responsible for cleaning up their mess? The result is either a littered community or the waste of public money on its cleanup.
My second item of displeasure is that this practice is completely and utterly unnecessary, since every car I have ever owned has come equipped with an ashtray. When did it become an acceptable practice to bypass the vehicle-equipped butt reservoir in favor of the streets we live on? My suspicion, though I hope that I am incorrect, is that the cleaning up of an ash tray requires a few minutes of inconvenience every couple of weeks.
I am not a smoker, and do not mean to lecture from any perceived position of superiority. Cigarette smoking is a very addictive habit and I empathize with anyone who tries to quit. However, my understanding of this habit is not extended to the proper disposal of its residue.
It is pleasing to note however, that Lorain County is doing something about it. The Lorain County Commissioners and the Lorain County Solid Waste Management District are engaging in a campaign to clean our county of cigarette butts. The program features "Adopt-A-Spot" and "Adopt-A-Highway" solutions.
While I applaud the program, I would have to admit that I would be a little tougher. I would let those that litter clean up their own messes. I believe the fine for throwing a cigarette butt out the car window, if ever enforced, is usually around one hundred dollars. I would add to the fine a video on recycling (similar to the seat-belt video) and community service that involved, at minimum, a four-hour shift cleaning up the very road or intersection where the culprit littered. If a few people spend their Saturday morning cleaning up cigarette butts, suddenly their ashtray might become a whole lot more popular. It might also, and more importantly, lead to a greater understanding and appreciation for the planet we live on.