Dog-poop and littering are as much of a concern to people as larger global enviro-issues. So says the findings of a recent UK study. This is only natural. We see litter all around us, and we step in dog poop. Very few people look outside and say, "Is that the sea that's covered the lawn? When did that happen?"
The Fabian Society, who conducted the survey, concluded that what was needed to rectify this was a public holiday. Only it wouldn't be a holiday as such. This officially sanctioned day-off would be used to reinvigorate people's interest in the state of their local environment. If people care more about their immediate surroundings, they argue, they will care more about the bigger picture. And just to ensure people don't bunk off for a long weekend, they suggested the day off be held midweek.
Naturally many people will ignore it, choosing instead to do what many do on public holidays and either start a personal project they'll never finish, or go to the beach. It could be argued that if they delay thinking about larger issues the beach will eventually come to them.
To my knowledge, no candidate or party here has called for a public holiday in order to have a bit of a tidy up. Imagine the consternation if they did. The air will echo with the sound of people deriding the notion. "Nanny state doesn't have the right to tell us to tidy up after ourselves, and certainly not after others!"
The irony is that people will go a considerable distance out of their way to dispose of their refuse. It's almost a national pastime to take a drive somewhere picturesque and befoul it for everyone else by emptying the contents of your boot into the bush or a creek. A Christchurch study found that 40 per cent of trash removed from urban parks was household rubbish that should have been picked up during kerbside collections. Once it's in the park it's no longer their problem, even as the park becomes an ad-hoc landfill.
And if you can shrug off the park as someone else's problem, then surely you also shrug off carbon emissions, climate change and the imminent extinction of Maui's dolphins.
I can understand those who question why we should tidy up if life as we know it is going to end anyway. If it's not the climate it'll be some kind of antibiotic-resistant superbug, or we'll catch the flu from a chook.
Even I, engulfed in a sea of rising despondency after reading reports of the impending collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, couldn't see the point in finishing the chores I had on my lengthy to-do list. Why should I complete my GST? Why paint the garage roof? Surely I can just hiff my breakfast dishes onto the lawn and they'll be cleansed in due course by the salty lapping of a rising sea? I'd be better off hauling a mattress into the attic, then re-watching Kevin Costner's excellent documentary Waterworld for pointers on outfitting super-tankers as floating cities.
But this is the exactly the hopeless fatalism that we must combat. While the election campaign rightly focuses on global environmental issues, it would also be nice to see a spotlight on things closer to home. A national day of service seems a brilliant idea. A little community autonomy on a declared national day of service might just bring us all together for a civic spruce up, followed by a slap-up neighbours-a-plate street do.
Me? Well I did my GST. Even if the world is submerged I'm sure the IRD will still function.