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May 29, 1998

G. Michael Reid on keeping Belize clean

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“Beta no litta” was the theme of a particularly imaginative public service campaign to clean up the nation’s highways. But while the music had a good beat and the drama was first rate, commentator G. Michael Reid finds that when it comes to littering, the most effective antidote may be a sharp blow from a hardwood two by four.

“A commercial used to run on American TV which showed an old Indian standing beside a lonely desert highway. A vehicle passes and as the occupants nonchalantly toss garbage from the window, a tear is seen rolling down the cheek of the old patriarch, as he sadly laments the blatant desecration of the land he and his ancestors once held sacred. I had an experience earlier this week and had that old Indian been there, he wouldn’t have just shed a tear, he probably would have cried like a baby.

After spending a frustrating day in Belmopan last week, I boarded a Batty bus for the torpid trip back home. I settled into a seat directly behind a woman who was accompanied by two young children. She was preparing to share with them what has obviously become, a stable part of almost every Belizean’s diet; a greasy dollar chicken. This meal as most know, usually comes wrapped in an aluminum foil, folded into a paper plate and served for take-out in a brown paper bag.

As the bus pulled out, the mother unfolded the meal and the entire family dug in. From the looks of things these folks were either not very hungry or the chicken was not very good for we were well on our way to BELIZE before the last morsel of meat was finally gone. What happened next was totally disgraceful and shocking. The woman rolled up her garbage, put everything in the brown paper bag and casually threw everything out of the window, and not even on the side toward the edge of the road which would have been bad enough, but she was sitting on the side toward the middle of the road.

“C’mon,” said I, “that is not only insensitive, it is also illegal.” “Well” said the upstart frump, “you go pick it up or try to arrest me.” After the kind of day I had just had, I was tempted to do even more than that. Discretion got the better part of my outrage however, and she remained in her upright position. I couldn’t help but think though, that this very same woman would go to Chetumal or some other foreign country and not even think about trying the same thing. Maybe we should institute the same stiff penalties that they do to hopefully discourage such behavior.

This woman of course, unknowingly or uncaringly was also setting a terrible example for her two children and for every other child who happened to have been on that bus. Our country is now also overrun by many immigrants from other places and if they see us doing this, how can we expect them to do otherwise? If we don’t care, why should they?

The saddest part about this whole experience of course, is the fact that it is by no means an isolated incident but happens on a daily basis. I was passing Pallotti junction the other day and was almost hit by a plastic bottle that was thrown from one of the buses that had pulled up there. As for the busses, maybe making garbage containers available — if not mandatory — and posting signs might help but the problem is by no means limited to only public transportation. Many times occupants of private vehicles also indulge in the same harmful practice and we must all do our share in keeping our country clean and beautiful. BELIZE is ours, it is a privilege and a blessing to live here and instead of complaining and inquiring as to what she is doing for us, maybe we can try to do something for her. The least would be to keep her clean.

With the Last Word, G. Michael Reid.”

The opinions expressed on the Last Word are those of G. Michael Reid and not necessarily those of Channel Five. Viewer comments are welcome.

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