The letter from the Chiang Mai Mail
reader about the litter on Doi Suthep got me thinking back to when I was a
young child and anti-littering laws were first instituted in the state I
lived in. I don’t really recall seeing garbage all over the freeways but it
must have been an issue as a huge educational campaign was launched, with
the iconic image of the Native American crying over the destruction of his
homeland. It was a deeply moving ad, or at least it was for me as a small
child and made a deep impression on me at the time.
However, in addition to raising awareness about littering there was massive
crackdown on people dumping garbage on the side of the road. At the time I
wondered why just there but it seems that a lot of people would (and do here
as well) take the trouble to put their garbage in their car and dump it on
the side of the road for the government to pick up. The reasoning behind
this is beyond me but it must have also been prevalent in the United States
as my state, one of the first to institute draconian littering fines, had to
crack down on it. Apparently, litter on the highways is a safety concern
with over 800 people killed in the United States because of things dumped on
the roads. Considering how many times I have had to swerve around stuff in
the road, I understand that.
Fines range from state to state, from US$100 -6,000. Additionally, people
caught dumping garbage or littering usually have to take part in a community
service program picking up litter from roadsides or other areas. In some
states, penalties double for repeat offenders, and then double again if they
are caught again. Oregon sets littering as a Class A misdemeanor with a fine
not exceeding $6,250 or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both. Seems
harsh but Oregon is a very clean state.
And it was also this that taught me not to litter. A parent afraid of being
forced to pay a large fine or even going to jail for it will certainly teach
their child to never throw garbage out of the car or to litter. Perhaps it
is time for Thailand to not only institute these kinds of penalties but to
also enforce them.
The biggest issue is, of course, not that there are not laws in place to
deal with the problems that Thailand and Thais face but that there is no
regular and steady enforcement of these laws. So, perhaps Thailand needs to
start its own campaign to combat littering that will move their children as
much as that one moved me.