Why do we litter?


Littering is such a basic, thoughtless action. Perhaps it is because it is a thoughtless action that it is so difficult to stop people from doing it. I have thought on occasion that if we could resolve the question of why humans litter/pollute/waste, we would be well on the way to resolving most of societies problems.

I have been thinking also about the concepts of letting and allowing, of detachment, of living in the moment, which are receiving much attention in this ‘brave new world’.  At first glance they all seem like worthy goals. As we strip away our attachment to transient possessions, to unnecessary things, we feel less need to posses,  less responsible, less stressed. Finally we live in the moment, with the responsibility for past and future removed – we are in harmony with ourselves. Or are we?

I wonder if there is not a small flaw in the way we think about this. Most humans only feel responsible for that to which they feel attachment; people who own their house will take much better care of it than those who rent.

When I look at society and social media I realise we are losing attachment to things, because we are becoming more and more attached to ourselves. We are increasingly attached to our outward appearance, increasingly addicted to our ‘reflection in the mirror’. ‘

In Greek mythologyNarcissus (/nɑrˈsɪsəs/GreekΝάρκισσος, Narkissos) was a hunter from the territory of Thespiae in Boeotia who was renowned for his beauty. He was the son of a river god named Cephissus and a nymph named Liriope.[1] He was exceptionally proud of what he did to those who loved him. Nemesis noticed this behavior and attracted Narcissus to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus died. Narcissus is the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissus_(mythology)

We have made our bodies the thing to which we are most attached. Thereby not expanding our consciousness, but shrinking it right down to the limits of our skin. With globalisation and social media this narcissus fable becomes an epic horror story, in which we doom not just ourselves but society as a whole.

We litter/waste/pollute because the more attached we become to our physical bodies, the smaller our sphere of personal responsibility. We care only about the space that we currently inhabit. We use the item, once it no longer serves us,  we no longer care for it, we cast it aside, we walk away. We are no longer there, so it does not matter to us.

I have always suspected that people who litter are the most base of the species. Beware of the person who litters, no good will come of any attachment to them.

Ideally, as we become less attached to outward things, we should become more aware of inward things, to consciousness and self.  As our awareness of mind – for want of a better term – grows, this would then make us feel more responsibility for outward things, not because of the thing, but how it reflects on ourselves.

We no longer care for the house/ the environment because we posses it , but because we have become aware that by caring for it we create harmony in our surroundings. This outer harmony in turn brings us inner harmony.

By redirecting attachment from things, to thoughts, to harmony we gently expand our realm of responsibility. As we do so the act of littering becomes unthinkable as we become aware that in destroying the world around us we are destroying ourselves.

The love affair with a coke can is brief. Painting by Annette Jahnel



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close