Throngs of volunteers combed beaches, roadsides, vacant lots and waterways last weekend, removing tons of trash.
The combined efforts of various Earth Day cleanup activities leave our islands markedly more beautiful than they had previously been. Gone are the plastic straws and cigarette butts that had been strewn like confetti throughout downtown George Town; the plastic containers and other “junk” ensnared in mangrove branches and aerial roots; the floating islands of trash that collect in waterways and along roadsides; the “do-it-yourself” landfills created by thoughtless neighbors and passersby in our wooded and vacant lots.
All gone. And good riddance (to bad rubbish, as they say) – for now.
Well-deserved thanks are extended to the individuals who contributed to the cleanup efforts, not to mention the groups – including the Chamber of Commerce, environmental and diving associations, neighborhood groups and Earth Day committees – which coordinated those efforts, and the private businesses which donated equipment and supplies.
Unfortunately, as we have learned through experience, the improvements will almost certainly be temporary. Too soon, the blight of unsightly and unhygienic litter will again accumulate on our beaches, neighborhoods, commercial areas and open spaces.
In addition to the annual Earth Day events, several groups organize regular coordinated cleanups throughout the year. Even more people make it a habit to pick up trash as they encounter it. Even so, something more must be done to ensure our islands remain pristine all the year round. (As Mary Poppins might say, “Tip top, spit spot!”)
Of course, the real problem in Cayman is not the litter itself, but Cayman’s litterbugs.
Ideally, we would be able to invoke a sense of personal responsibility among our people so they would never even consider irresponsibly discarding their trash. Shouldn’t we all take pride in our beautiful islands? (Texas, famously, got tougher with its “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign.) Behavior such as flinging food wrappers out of car windows or lobbing bags of trash into neighboring properties should be considered socially unacceptable.
As we mentioned in a recent editorial, we keep hearing about the estimated 1,500 Caymanians who cannot find work. Well, perhaps we could offer some of them some work, by expanding to all four seasons the annual “Christmas cleanup” program that pays a decent wage – $10 an hour.
Another suggestion might be to enlist people who have been sentenced to perform community service as atonement for minor criminal violations. Helping to keep our public spaces clean certainly sounds to us as worthwhile community service.
Since our legislators have already carved up our country into 19 separate “mini-districts,” perhaps district councils, elected representatives and residents themselves can come up with workable solutions for their own neighborhoods. One suggestion might be to organize a good-natured competition of sorts to recognize – perhaps with a trophy displayed in a public place – the most spotless mini-district on the island. The Compass certainly would participate to the extent we are able (news coverage, free ads?) to promote the cleanup efforts and acknowledge the good work being done.
The Cayman Islands are already known as one of the most beautiful, most stable and safest destinations in the Caribbean. Wouldn’t it be equally desirable to be thought of as one of the cleanest as well?