A place we have been before and can be again

Thursday, October 04, 2018

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A story on coastal clean-up in Rocky Point, Clarendon, in yesterday's Jamaica Observer, reminds us not only of the need for people to keep their environment clean but also of the great value of volunteerism and community service.

Youth clubs, service-oriented organisations and other community groups were active on International Coastal Clean-up Day in mid-September. They cleaned beaches and coastal areas, picking up discarded plastic bottles, plastic bags and other wrapping, along with other forms of solid waste that are gradually placing a chokehold on life.

In terms of that chokehold, the gradual removal from regular usage of non-biodegradable material such as plastic can't happen too soon. Which is why — despite cost factors and inconvenience — Jamaicans must throw their weight behind the Government's move to ban single-use plastic bags, come early next year.

Likewise, initiatives aimed at developing bio-degradable alternatives to plastic such as the use of bamboo, for example, must be encouraged.

All that said, the pile-up of solid waste — including plastics — choking beaches, gullies, waterways, roadsides and play areas continues unabated as uncaring, indisciplined people litter indiscriminately.

We can only imagine that, but for attempts at public education programmes which urge Jamaicans to exercise cleanliness and take better care of their environment, it would be much worse.

The situation is proving too much for the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), the State-run agency which has the task of cleaning up and disposing of all that garbage.

Note the comment from president of the Clarendon Leo Club, Ms Grace-Ann Archer:

“It is important for us to challenge ourselves as individuals to keep our environment clean. Although we are happy that we could make a positive impact, the number of plastic bottles we found indicates a need to intensify our efforts in achieving greater public awareness about recycling and proper solid waste disposal.”

Which is where volunteerism and community service, such as was displayed on International Coastal Clean-up Day, come in.

Of course, most such efforts by volunteers never get the attention of the public.

Yet the community knows and learns. It's not just about immediate material improvements, such as clean beaches, clean roadsides etc. Perhaps most importantly, that example set by some community members who give of themselves creates the base for a new cultural awareness and approach among their neighbours.

So that if, for example, 'Mass John' keeps cleaning up, not just his yard, but also the roadside, up and down the road from his gate, maybe his neighbour will, sometime soon, think about following his lead.

It won't happen overnight. It will take time. Yet in such small ways can those who know better play a lead role in lifting their communities.

This newspaper is aware that increasingly schools are encouraging volunteerism and community service with students getting credits for such work. We believe even greater emphasis on getting children and young people to develop the habit of voluntarily serving communities and individuals in need could be of immense value in the building of a better Jamaica.

We have been there before.

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