Editorial: In ‘defense’ of litterbugs

In last week’s paper an eloquent letter from a reader challenged “local litterbugs to justify their actions.” Not having heard from any self-proclaimed litterbugs, I will attempt to offer an apologia.

This is not to acknowledge that there are actually any “local litterbugs” residing in Rappahannock County. That is yet to be proved. All the trash cluttering our scenic highways and byways may well be the work of outsiders – or even marauding black bears, according to one theory advanced in this newspaper.

But to assume for the moment that litter is indeed the product of local human behavior, here are some possible justifications:

1. Humans are meant to have dominion over the earth. Litter is simply a bold assertion of this dominion.

2. Maybe litter isn’t ugly after all. Rather, it is a form of creative self-expression, not unlike the Greatest Generation’s “Kilroy Was Here” or the Millennial Generation’s sexting of “selfies.”

3. Littering is an example of what Thorstein Veblen famously termed “conspicuous consumption” and shows that America remains a rich society, contrary to what the gloom-and-doomers would have us believe.

4. Recycling is for sissies.

5. Without litterbugs, there would be no trash for people to feel good about picking up.

6. To worry about something so obvious as litter means, by implication, that we should also worry about the much more subtle, insidious trash called our “carbon footprint.” And everyone knows that carbon-induced climate change is a hoax made up by worrywarts.

In serious conclusion, I share the letter-writer’s perplexity about the motivation of litterbugs. But maybe all of us are litterbugs to one degree or another? Litter simply makes glaringly obvious the human propensity to foul our own nest. So to climate science deniers, I say, “Look at the litter!”

Walter Nicklin