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The choice is yours

Sailosi Batiratu
Tuesday, February 05, 2013

DURING an afternoon walk some time back I saw a boy throwing rubbish into the river at Laqere. He had a trolley of sorts and the trash looked to be properly bagged. If only he had taken the extra step to see that rubbish was disposed in the proper manner.

Further ahead, two boys threw what also looked like to be household garbage into that river just the turn to the army's Force Training Group as you head towards Nausori from Suva.

So, what's the big deal? Rubbish is everywhere; it's organic and inorganic, it's chucked out of cars, dropped by pedestrians and piled along roads by residents who've missed the pick-up days and times. It is dropped and discarded and piled up in various other places and in different ways.

For starters, it's a big deal because there is a law prohibiting such behaviour, the Anti-Litter Decree. And then we're supposed to be very careful with what we do because the environment can take only so much rubbish.

Apart from that every action has a consequence. A piece of rubbish by the road is an eyesore. A chemical leak into a stream or the sea can be fatal for creatures in the water and those who rely on those waterways for a living.

A feature or characteristic of our smallness is that the adverse consequences of the actions of a few can be multiplied over and have disastrous consequence for the many. OK, this holds true for any country whether it be big or small but being a small island state means the negatives are somewhat magnified.

A few years back during a chat with a friend, Isoa Koroi who was then pursuing postgraduate studies at the University of the South Pacific, he told me about his work with eco-tourism projects at Dawasamu, Tailevu, where he is originally from.

Isoa, who was commonly referred to as Sox, said part of their work was meeting and talking with landowners in the area. Sox said this was not confined to those on the coast. He said they had met with people living upstream to explain to them the effects of their activities on the environment.

Sox had said great care was taken to link the presence of dolphins in the area to the state of the sea. The state of the dolphins' environment was then linked to the stream(s) in the area and how activities on land could eventually affect the stream and adversely impact on the dolphins and the eco-tourism lodge by the seaside.

Having earlier mentioned the law, there is another which was recently highlighted but which no one seems to be taking seriously. At least not in the Capital City when I am out and about.

People cross the streets in downtown Suva as if there is no decree forbidding jaywalking. Decree aside, people cross where and when they will. Sometimes it seems they have a wish to be hit by a car, bus or truck. And when they have a near miss, they turn around and swear at the driver as if it was the driver's fault.

And when I say people, I mean people of all ages, both sexes and of various ethnicities.

When the decree was first introduced, people followed the law because there were police officers at crossings. Their presence lent order to the coming and going of the general public. In a way it brought back the message in the novel, The Lord of the Flies. Take away moral, social and legal constraints and people, or in the case of the novel a group of boys, will revert to being savages.

It reminded me of a friend's comment while we were drinking yaqona and the discussion turned to how widespread jaywalking was. He simply said: "O keda so na tamata be." Loosely translated it means, reasons aside, we simply refuse to follow instructions.

What is really worrying is that among jaywalkers are parents or guardians with children in tow. We talk constantly about the importance of teaching and reinforcing positive behaviours from a young age because of the likelihood of they being ingrained and becoming life-long habits. And throw in the chance that when adults and parents they will bring up their children the same way they were taught and so sustain a certain desired behaviour. But in this particular matter we contradict ourselves.

On the other hand there are drivers who disregard the traffic lights that have just turned red. They only know what is so important that it cannot wait even if it means some may get hurt, possibly fatally, in the process.

There is another law which some drivers, through their actions, show they think it is a waste no use following. This is in reference to the law against speaking on a mobile phone while driving.

Police and other road regulation enforcers have time and again been heard warning against this practice. But every once in a while a driver can be seen chatting away on his or her mobile phone as they drive along. Even some drivers of public service vehicles have been guilty of this.

Two simple rules but it seems some of us have some difficulty following them. Persons who specialise in the study of human behaviour would be better placed to explain as to why such behaviours persist.

It may be argued that no one really seems to be hurt when these rules are ignored. So we can safely keep ignoring them. The counter argument could be that it is when we are good at the small things that the bigger things, with a bit more collective effort, will fall into place.

As we are still in the first quarter of 2013 it would serve us well to focus on the little things and use them as building blocks to be better as a person, a parent, guardian, a student, an employee, activist, villager, farmer etc in 2013 and the succeeding years.

The choice is up to each and every one of us.

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