Thursday, May 15, 2008


Certainly, they have a different attitude to garbage here in Latin America...the attitude apparently being that they don't mind having it around them, filling up their yards and streets, and littering the side of every highway. Honduras was the worst I saw regarding trash. On the bus to SPS from Tegucigalpa the couple in front of me threw 3 bottles and two wrappers out the window. I can remember being appalled by the trash I saw on my first couple trips to border towns in Mexico...and not just appalled but a bit depressed and scared to think that many of the people who created the mess were intent on coming into my country. I guess it really wasn't that long ago when people regularly used to litter the highways in the States, but I can't imagine there was ever a time when Americans lived amongst garbage in their yards the way many of the people in Central America do. It's as if the technology of disposable goods has arrived before the technology to deal with the result. But then that's the case for us as well as we really don't recycle very well...we just hide it better in the landfills.

Many people will attribute the filth to poverty, or culture...i.e. it's not easy so clean it up when you have no trash bags to put it in. But then if you can afford a bottle of Coke you ought to be able to afford a plastic bag. Or perhaps poor people have better things to worry about than garbage, like where their next meal is coming from. But then, poor people in these countries are poor because there are no jobs and they don't work, not because they're too busy to clean up after themselves. I would posit that living in a litter-filled environment is not only unsanitary but also discourages progress in that a person is apt to be effected mentally living in filth...becoming less likely exert himself to better his station in life. Many of the Iraqis I worked with left trash all over the place, which I thought was disgraceful for a military unit. We didn't have a lot of luck changing that habit of theirs, and really didn't try that hard to change them, considering it a 'cultural' thing, and, of course, we can't try to change someone's culture. To me, attributing these practices to 'culture' is not helpful for dealing with the's just making an excuse for bad behavior.

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