The human species is the most complex, specialized and highly evolved of all living organisms, and as such, is completely dependent upon all other life forms that came before it. The irony in that is that it doesn't work the other way around, for no other life forms depend upon humans for their survival. No matter how superior we may think we are, we have essentially proceeded from all other forms of earthly life, and they were all here long before we were. I would go so far as to say that none of them would be all that traumatized were we to mysteriously drop out of the biological equation.
Yet no other species, however enlightened, is as capable of upsetting the ecological apple cart as humans, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the garbage we produce and that we seem to have no idea what to do with. No other living creature produces so many byproducts that nature cannot reassimilate to the extent that we do, and no other even comes close to the disrespect for the environment that humans are capable of.
No matter where I go, I see it. Be it on the lovely path at the bird sanctuary at Biddeford Pool or along the edges of the Mast Road in Lyman, the evidence that humans have passed this way is painfully evident in the form of all manner of detritus such as food wrappers, empty cans, and the infuriatingly ubiquitous cigarette butts. If there is such a thing as violence against nature, then this is surely one manifestation of it, and one that is so easily avoidable.
Many cities and towns regularly dispatch sweepers to clean their streets and roads, yet who is there to monitor the less-travelled paths and lanes? And isn't it, or shouldn't it be, incumbent upon each and every one of us to display a proper respect for nature by at least not asking her to dispose of our garbage, too? Yes, certain things do disappear into the soil given enough time, but the best nature can do in most cases is to wait until enough autumn leaves have fallen to cover the unsightliness of objects that simply do not belong there.
I've been just as guilty myself in the past of rolling down my car window and tossing out a gum wrapper or a used tissue. But as I sat in my car on Main Street in Biddeford recently waiting for a friend who was on an errand, I noticed a man walking along with a long-handled grabber, picking trash up along the sidewalks and depositing it into a bag he carried. It occurred to me that the visible trash, of the sort that clogs our streets and drains, is considered more of an eyesore and an affront, and so it must be quickly disposed of. But conversely, it seems that the old "out of sight, out of mind" maxim applies to the less frequented by-ways where it seems less of an transgression to crush a cigarette out or toss a granola bar wrapper because fewer people are likely to see it. Yet are we doing our environment less of an injustice because no one is likely to make a fuss?
I feel one should be made, as it is very unpleasant to walk along the roads less taken, absorbing the beauty of a grass carpet dotted with wildflowers only to glance down and spot something completely incongruous and that spoils the view. If we are to smugly claim the honor of being the most civilized species, then shouldn't we act the part as well where our Earth is concerned, consider our origins and stop this needless desecration of our surroundings?
There are places for trash, and the seaside, roadways, fields and secluded woodland paths are not among them. While many of us are trying harder to recycle and to be more careful about how we dispose of our trash, we can't stop there. We must become the species that not only takes freely from the Earth and from nature but gives back to them as well, not in the form of garbage but in one of respect and a passionate unwillingness to defile their sacred beauty.