Ok so the title is a bit misleading on two fronts...
I picked up all that over the course of two walks I went on with the child seeking some outside time for myself and the dog as well. I would also like to emphasize that I didn’t even go out of my way to pick all that up, it was either on the sidewalk or right next to it as I walked.
I tell you this so I can make a confession I don’t normally pick up trash and recycling I find on my walks.
I know shocking right….
How can someone who built and writes on a website called the Green Living Library not make it a habit of picking up loose trash wherever they see it? Since I am being entirely honest, there are two reasons why this is not a habit for me.
Legal vs Moral
From a legal perspective, unless that trash ends up in the immediate vicinity of my house it’s not my problem. It has to be on my property before I legally have to give a crap about it. This seems to be true of most cities, if it’s not in the street it’s the problem of the property owner. So while I am not legally obligated to pick up trash from the sidewalk in front of other people’s homes I am starting to come around to the fact that maybe I am morally obligated to pick it up. I share that sidewalk, that street, the neighborhood, even the whole town with other people and it seems to me that I have a responsibility towards that community to help take care of the environment it exists in.
Public Responsibility vs Private Responsibility
The question I am beginning to wrestle with more and more as I grow older is where does public responsibility end and where does private responsibility end? At what point is it my problem and what point it is the public’s problem? Up until recently for the most part I considered everything that was past my property line and didn’t affect my life as not my problem.
Now on the face of it, things like I have listed above, are someone else’s problem. But if everyone takes the it’s someone else’s problem approach to life then a lot of things that need doing don’t get done. I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer to my question about where public and private responsibility end is that,
They don’t end…. they are one and the same.
There is no private responsibility or public responsibility you don’t get to pick and choose where you are responsible for something and where you are not. If you are a living breathing person then like the rest of us are responsible for every second of your life and every action taken or not taken during that life.
So yes maybe someone else is why there is a broken beer bottle on the sidewalk going to a school but if you walk by it without cleaning it up then you are just as responsible for that beer bottle.
I know it kinda sucks right…..
If you look at the world through the framework of universal responsibility where if you have the power to make it better then you are responsible for making it better then suddenly you have a lot more problems.
But that’s ok because along with those problems you also get the power to solve them. Now, this doesn’t mean I expect you to run out and solve world hunger and fight crime, some things are better left to those better suited to solve them. But the next time you see some trash that needs picking up or an elderly neighbors sidewalk that needs shoveling maybe you make that problem yours and in a small way make the world a better place.
Whether we want to admit it or not we are all responsible in some small way for how the world is now and that means we are also responsible for how the world will look in the future. I hope for the sake of my child that by the time they are my age they are living in a much cleaner, greener, sustainable world that they won’t fear bringing a kid into like I do.
I don’t know what the future holds but I know that one thing I can do is teach my kid to pick up garbage, recycle whatever they can, and live the cleanest, greenest, and most sustainable life that they can.
Hello my name is Josh Larson and I am the creator of the Green Living Library. Here on the blog you will find updates to content found in the Green Living Library as well as stories from those living the sustainable life already.