An amateur diver recently stole the show a week ahead of the Cannes Film Festival’s launch after he took a camera under the sea and showed the polluted wasteland that lurks beneath the surface of the French Riviera. Festival-goers will have rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, eaten fine foods and drunk expensive wines completely unaware of the local sea-bed’s thick carpet of trash; but this is not to blame them – only to illustrate how life’s veneers are allowed to conceal the world’s environmental problems and those who are responsible for them.


I used italics there to emphasize that Planet Earth’s sickness – for it has only one – is not an inevitable, natural consequence of its habitation but one that is completely avoidable and directly attributable to each and every thoughtless, litter-slinger: the numbskull motorists who craftily deposit their junk beneath their cars before driving out of the car park; the ‘thoughtful’ idiots who consider a wall-mounted drink tin somehow ornamental; the ramblers and happy campers who thoughtfully do their bit for the environment by reinforcing drystone walls with paper bags and plastic bottles…I need not go on. Everyone with the exception of babies knows the value of clean and tidy surroundings – even kids – but a sizeable lazy minority knowingly choose the easiest and quickest method of waste disposal: dump it.


 That governments are 10 years behind the times on all issues is a phenomenon well-known to all of us ‘ordinary, hard-working’ citizens, but quite how the issues of litter-dropping and rubbish-dumping have eluded successive British governments as a means of wealth creation is quite astonishing: surely…SURELY someone in Westminster must have seen the potential for filling the hard-pressed nation’s coffers to overflowing? No? Has it never occurred to an MP that a minimum fine of, say, £500.00 imposed upon a bottle-slinger or their parents would see the treasury requiring an extension to house all of the extra cash?


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Rest awhile in your town centre. Park yourself on the kindly donated bench and watch… You’ll see crime after heinous crime committed before your very eyes; crimes so commonplace they don’t even begin to register in the public psyche because they’re either inured to these foul deeds or they’re among the perpetrators themselves. Now, if you were part of a legally endorsed litter squad charged with enforcing those prominent, newly-introduced warning-notices, you’d be raking in tens of thousands of pounds every day until the message finally got through to the Great Unwashed – and that’s just in your town centre. Nationwide we’d have – at the very least – a couple of years with unthinkable amounts of money gushing-into the public purse – and here’s the thing: we’d get a clean and pleasant land into the bargain.    


Wouldn’t that be a good deal? Who would oppose such an idea? Who wouldn’t want to live in a land comparable to Austria or Switzerland in terms of cleanliness? I have strolled for miles along the Rhein from Diessenhofen (twice actually) and have never seen so much as a matchstick. I have cycled over Austria without once having my sight assaulted by a discarded burger-box and, in Germany, too, the clear expectation is of clean, litter and graffiti-free streets. WE could be like this! And, of course, these same standards would apply to our waterways and our seas. Applied globally the world would readopt a natural hue and the oceans would cease to throw-up polyurethane beaches.


 This is far from being fanciful…an impossible dream; indeed, it would be one of the most enforceable rules ever imposed on a public which, in the main, does not need convincing; it is only that large and very significant minority that needs to be pulled into line and made to compensate the rest of us.


Cliff Hatton