CHARLOTTE, North Carolina—Days after the celebration of Cagayan de Oro City’s annual fiesta dubbed by the city government as ‘Higalaay Festival’, I saw photos on my social media feed of garbage lying uncollected on the city’s roads and streets, most notably near the areas where the malls held their fireworks displays to mark the end of the fiesta celebration.
These photos showed a lot of Cagayan de Oro residents, visitors and tourists carelessly dumping their personal garbage like uneaten food packs, plastic bottles, napkins and so on at the streets and grass.
Granted that this is a common scene in every part of the Philippines where fiesta celebrations are held—and in fact local governments organize their teams of street sweepers and garbage collection teams to clean up the mountains of trash left behind by the revelers—it is still disconcerting and downright disgusting to see the filth left behind being shown all over social media where anyone with a WIFi access can see to their disgust.
It’s not just the Philippines of course. First World countries also have problems with tourists and their own citizens nonchalantly dumping their trash whenever they feel like it. And more likely than not, a lot of netizens also take photos and videos of the abandoned trash to show to others across the world via social media.
But there are countries like Singapore who take sanitation very seriously and impose sanctions on those who so much as throw gum or gum wrapper on the ground despite the presence of garbage bins in their immediate area.
When people outright refuse to dump their trash in accessible garbage bins, especially smokers who throw away their cigarette butts on the ground and expect the street cleaners to pick it up for them, then they are the problem and part of the reason why pollution exists in this world.
And no, they cannot weasel their way out of being responsible for properly disposing of their garbage by reasoning that major industries should be blamed for polluting the planet and thus should be held accountable for their criminal neglect.
This personal and collective responsibility for sanitation in our homes and immediate surroundings is not just about for our environment though the environment impacts heavily on how we live.
A clean environment generally free from pollution is also anathema to those dengue-carrying mosquitoes that had lately plagued a lot of Filipinos across the country including here in Cagayan de Oro where the number of dengue cases had more than doubled to 1,900 plus as of last month compared to the same period last year.
By now, everyone is familiar with how stagnant water provides an attractive breeding ground for these dengue-carrying mosquitoes that prey on any person they come into contact with. Like all predators they’re not picky over who they victimize and more often than not, it’s the children that fall prey to their dangerous bites.
For those expecting city officials to wave a magic wand or go high tech and make the dengue menace disappear from their lives, they would be sorely disappointed to hear from the city government that the solution lies more on prevention, or rather cleaning their surroundings at least once a week.
And anyway one choose to analyze it, this simple, basic solution to clean our surroundings is the best and cheapest option available out there. Parents wouldn’t have to worry too much about their kids playing outside if they know that the area they’re playing in is safe from both disease carrying mosquitoes and predators of the two legged kind.
In fact let’s instill in ourselves the mindset of cleaning up after ourselves without having to expect others to clean up our own mess. It’s not only unfair, it’s also inconveniencing others even those whose jobs are to clean up the streets and roads of our garbage.
And that lesson applies to everyone from the poor to the rich—especially the industries whose operations impact heavily on the environment—since we need to remind ourselves constantly to be consistent in being responsible and accountable for disposing of our own garbage and keeping our environment pollution-free.