A couple of weeks ago, we went to one of our local parks to participate in a Clean Up Australia Day event. The grand plan was to show our son collective action in real life, to instil in him a sense of global citizenship, to foster his respect for the environment and bond over how smug we felt about our own civic-mindedness.
When we left the house, my son was enthusiastic. He was wearing his ‘special working’ gumboots, gung-ho and full of fervour for our mission. We picked up a few pieces of rubbish on our own footpath to get into the spirit of things, and argued about whether we needed to purchase a plastic grabber to make the experience of picking up rubbish ‘more funner.’ We said no to the grabber, as it felt self-defeating to contribute to landfill while cleaning up Australia. By the time we got to the park, my son was thoroughly disenchanted. It was only five minutes away. A novelty pair of gardening gloves didn’t help.
It was very hot. This park may well have been located on the surface of the sun/an inner circle of hell. It didn’t help that we weren’t there to play or commune with nature, but to extract shreds of KFC boxes from sunburnt grass. I don’t know how they got there. A bad picnic? In my opinion, parks are for teenagers to pash in and kids to play in, and anything in between is improper usage.
We gritted our teeth, fanned out across the park with our plastic bags and picked through the broken glass and lolly wrappers and twists of blue wire (what have people been doing with all this blue wire?), hating humanity. The youngest member of our party found a big stick and destroyed an ant house, then complained that he was hot and bored and there were ants on him.
‘We spend a lot of time at the park,’ I said to him. ‘So we need to help keep it nice. It wouldn’t be very nice if there was rubbish all over the playground, would it?’
‘If there was rubbish on the swing, it would just fly off when it moved. Then I could still use it.’
‘But you’d still see yucky rubbish everywhere.’
‘No, I wouldn’t. I would lie on the slide and look up at the sky. Then I would only see sky.’
After about an hour or so, we were done.
Rather than stick around to deposit our bags of rubbish and pick up his certificate, my son elected to wait in the car.
Upon reflection, I feel that we all got something from the experience.
We agreed that the next time we cared about the environment, we would do it in winter.